Where, oh where are all the things,
That I thought Christmastime was going to bring?
Last year, I thought, maybe this year I’d see
Love and peace under my Christmas tree.
Where, oh where did that dream go?
I guess it got lost in the deep, deep snow.
I thought, maybe, people would change,
But where we are
Just the same.
~ Where is Christmas? Jan Gassman
It is a double-edged sword, this thing called maturity. On one hand the experience of growing up gives me the wisdom of hindsight; on the other, the logic that frames this understanding is the death of innocence.
It was easier when I didn’t know. It was happier. Perhaps it is true that ignorance is bliss.
I remember when I thought friendship was free and all people were good. I remember when I believed that leadership was a gift bestowed on only the worthy. I remember unrestrained love, undeserved favor and eternal hope. When my dreams were not laughed at and my ambitions not scorned as ridiculous.
I remember innocence. I remember you.
You can count on Kampala.
You can count on Kampala for its consistency.
Here’s the deal. You’ve got to lower the bar for my city. Really, really lower it.
If you don’t expect the traffic lights to work, you won’t be frustrated when they don’t. Practice falling into an open manhole as you walk the streets, so when you find yourself at the bottom of a broken sewer in the middle of the city you won’t be surprised. If you get used to the stench of rotting garbage, it may turn into a beautiful aroma. There’s one rule for driving in Kampala: selfishness; there’s one law of this jungle: you.
That’s right. Go ahead and lower the bar because in my city the consistency is disappointment.
Then some people have to go and disrupt things.
They smile at you in your taxi ride home, offering you silent pleasant companionship through the mad rush hour traffic.
They reach down to a dirty street child, give him a hug, buy him a meal and make him feel special for just one moment in his miserable life.
They rally around you when thieves break into your home and raise money to help you back on your feet.
They congregate at the home of a neighbor whose wife in childbirth, giving their food, their time and their lives to comfort him.
They say please, they say sorry, they say thank you, they say Merry Christmas Tumwijuke.
They want to make my city better. They want to kill its consistency.
I think some of the joy of Christmas comes from the knowledge that the year is coming to an end.
Maybe it isn’t joy. Maybe it’s delusion. It’s the kind of delusion that comes from a world-weary mind that has been taught to believe in the lie that a new day brings new beginnings. The delusion that a new year is a new start.
It is a double-edged sword, this thing called maturity. On one hand it is a reward for my learning; on the other, everything I have learned could be a lie.
If I have learned that all men want peace, why is there so much war? How come a child is abandoned everyday and everyday a childless woman cries herself to sleep? If hard work and honesty breed success, why do the corrupt prosper? I have learned that humanity is inherently good; so why am I still bad?
I’ve learned a lot, but I have learned nothing at all.
I long for remembrance. I long for innocence. I long for you.
Angels sang over all the earth,
Promising peace through the Savior’s birth.
If only people could see
Maybe that’s what we need under our tree …
~ Where is Christmas? Jan Gassman