Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 19, 2003
Say 'yes' to your next RSVP request
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
It's usually late autumn before most of us start thinking about holidays. That's perfectly reasonable, since Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's Day all come one after the other.
But this time of year, as spring slips into summer, we have celebrations, too, very personal ones. Graduations, weddings, anniversaries, reunions, all of these are in high season.
Just in time, too. I think we can all use some happy occasions right now. Turbulence and unrest in the world, tough economic conditions and concerns about the future and the present have made this a difficult period. So, it seems like a good thing to me when families, friends and neighbours get together for the simple pleasure of one another's company as well as the marking of some milestone.
I'm fortunate that I get to be part of many weddings and baptisms. These are momentous events not only for individuals, but for whole families.
Still, there's no denying that a certain amount of stress and discomfort for at least some of the celebrants is almost a sure thing. The problems can range from hosts wondering how they are going to pay for the party ("Did we have to invite all your third cousins?"), to guests who hate big events and wish they were back home ("I knew it would be too crowded! I could be home watching the game").
Then, there are those in the family who say the wrong thing or drink too much or make a scene.
Maybe it's a comfort knowing how much families have in common.
In spite of moments that are awkward or even painful, we usually do enjoy these events together - and with good reason. Most of us spend our time concentrating on our own day-to-day problems and concerns and those of the few people closest to us. The wider world - even of our own friends, relatives and neighbours - takes a back seat virtually all the time. That's why celebrations remind us of our connections with people who are, at some level, part of the substance of our lives.
Naturally, our perspectives change over time. Was it really so long ago we were talking with cousins about college plans, as young adults, keeping an eye on the youngsters and lending an ear to the elders?
I love watching the children. The little ones are often shy; a little older, they get bored. One way or the other they fit themselves into the extended group. They are, I believe, comforted by the continuity and ritual around them.
There is something reassuring when the generations gather, grandparents and godparents, old family friends and the newest member of the family and everyone in between. We all have a place in the world, and this is where it starts.
As much as in our homes and schools and neighbourhoods, here, too, we learn about human frailty, foibles and forgiveness.
And we discover things we share in common with others and things we don't, about the power of love and of humour, about mortality and about immortality. And we, in turn, pass along the message.
The next time an invitation comes your way, allow your host to enjoy the honour of your presence and the pleasure of your company. Bring a gift, not just one you wrap up, but your best self. And have fun!
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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