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The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, and for most, it is. But for some, it's anything but. As Christmas approaches, we all know people who are enduring difficult circumstances and challenges in their lives, including some who carry the burden of heartbreak as they watch someone they dearly love slowly slip away.

This is the time of year when those who are hurting in life seem to hurt even more. Maybe you are one of the people hurting this year; maybe you aren't. But your turn will come, as it does for all of us, because far too often bad things happen to good people and no one lives a full life free of heartache, adversity or profound loss.

When I reached an age at which there are a lot more yesterdays than tomorrows, I could feel the Christmas season tugging at my heart as I remembered the past, embracing it in my mind yet knowing it can never be re-lived. None of us are immune to the reality that Christmas has a way of reminding us of years gone by. I remember when I was a child, looking forward to what might be under the Christmas tree. I think about my mother and father. I recall the days of my youth when life seemed simpler and the possibilities of the future were endless. Back then, I thought I'd live forever.

Christmas can bring wrenching memories of family members and close friends who are no longer with us. We all have our own stories about the loss of loved ones we deeply miss and have learned this time of year can stir the sorrow we still feel, which always lies just beneath the surface. The absence of loved ones during the Christmas season can cause a sweeping sadness that's hard to shake at times.

For some, the holidays are difficult because they are separated by distance from family. They miss the connection with those they love the most. This is especially true for those with a family member serving in our country's armed forces somewhere in the world protecting our interests and often in harm's way.

There are those whose lives have somehow been wrecked or diminished through no fault of their own or whose life may not be whole or what they want it to be. Countless people find themselves dealing with severe illness or battling the inexorable advance of a cruel disease. Family or relationship issues hover over some during the holidays, taking an emotional toll. And there are those who have fallen on hard times with their finances, struggling to make ends meet and no longer able to provide as much for their family and others as they would wish to do. These sorts of circumstances leave people feeling down, even more so at Christmas.

People afflicted with frequent bouts of despair and depression, or those worn down by the stress and anxiety in their life, often find the holidays particularly hard to encounter and navigate. For them, Christmastime can take an extra toll, just as it can on the sick and the elderly, the poor and the homeless, the hungry and the disabled, and the lonely and the brokenhearted.

Eventually we all grasp why the Christmas season can sometimes be so difficult and painful for others because we experienced it ourselves in our own life. That's why the most meaningful gift at Christmas is caring enough to be there for those we know who are hurting. It's why so many in Northwest Arkansas do as much as they can through the year to make a difference for the most vulnerable among us by generously giving their time and money to non-profit agencies and programs that tend to the needs of those who require our help and support.

What's written here today isn't meant to cast a pall over the holidays because Christmas is mostly about love and hope. It's a joyful celebration of the birth of Jesus, who taught us all to not forget those who are suffering or facing a difficult time in life, and that it's not what we get that defines us but what we give to others that tells the real story about who we are.

If you're one of those hurting at Christmas this year, know you aren't forgotten and that others care about you. And know you're in the thoughts and prayers of many. Take comfort in knowing that Northwest Arkansas is still a place where people know when you are born and care when you die, and a place where people are there for each other when it counts the most.

Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for the coming new year.

Commentary on 12/20/2018

Print Headline: Christmas can be tough amid challenges of life

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