Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Giving the Spirit of Grace during the Holiday Season

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Giving the Spirit of Grace during the Holiday Season

Article excerpt

DURING trips to England, I visit Newington Green, the place of my upbringing. The Unitarian Chapel, built 1708, still stands, as do the large gabled houses, built around 1650. The Acorn Seed and Leaf Company is still engaged in the business of artificial flower-making, and much of the green has not changed in the past 100 years.

I feel particularly fortunate that this small village embraced by the larger mass of London can still remain as I remembered it as a small boy. But times and locales change, as do people, and often we don't really perceive the shift until someone reminds us, through gesture or comment, of the mores and fashions of another period.

During one such visit back to my childhood locale, I visited one of my mother's neighbors. I asked her what she felt had changed the most, and she told me that more than anything - more than the constant presence of traffic, more than the consistent noise of TV and radio, more than the visual assault of advertising and buildings - she felt that it was how people behaved.

"When I was a girl," she said, "people were kind to each other. Even those that had no manners pretended that they did. My mother always told me to be kinder than necessary, to go the little extra length and give that little extra measure to ensure that harmony and accord were always given a chance to guide us through the anxious moments."

At first, I thought that this might just be the wistful reminiscences of an old woman, who preferred to dwell on memories than face modern times. But when she recalled how her family behaved each New Year's Day, I realized just how much things had changed.

"It was a custom to make New Year's calls," she said. "My father and mother would take us as a family to call upon friends and neighbors in the locality.

"As children, we really didn't care for it. But when I grew into adulthood, I realized what an equanimity and healing there was in such an observance."

I listened as this senior citizen recalled how guests on their entrance into the hallway were expected to remove overcoats, hats, and gloves, so that they could enter the drawing room free to receive and offer salutations. …

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