'Tis the season for _______. Fill in the blank. Love, peace, giving, kindness, generosity, all the good things that people usually associate with the holidays. For others, the season is not as joyful, and the blank may be holding space for loneliness and need. And fragility.
Much of winter is fragile: snowflakes, icicles, brittle branches and dead leaves. They don't last. They are leaving their current state to move on to another. Sunlight itself is at a premium, fading early into night.
The symbols of the holiday are also mutable and delicate. Ornaments of glass that can shatter when knocked off the tree. Lights that twinkle but go dark when one on the chain ceases to shine. "Fra-jeel-ay," reads the father of Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story" as he ponders the mystery of his unopened major award.
The much-acclaimed but not often clearly defined Christmas Spirit is fickle as well. It extends to those we wish well, those who may become subjects of our road rage or customer impatience the very next day.
Perhaps we would do better if we considered the fragility of human nature. No matter how tough our exteriors, we have parts that are less resilient. Maybe egos, maybe hearts, maybe memories, and of course our physical structures. This is true all year long, both for us and for our students. And for their family members as well.
The lessons that haunt me the most as I look back, the other habit of the turning of the year, are the ones where I failed to see fragility and focused only getting the results I thought mattered. They didn't.