A Broken Gift: a Christmas Letter to My Children (and Yours)

Dear Children,

I’ve never really liked starting a letter with the words “I’m sorry.”

It always seemed so packaged to me. Kind of like a gift you give just because someone says you should. A little empty. A little ankle-deep. And never really reaching the depth of what needs to be said.

So please understand — leading with “I’m sorry” is not something I would normally do. But there is little that feels normal these days, children. And in all my grappling and wrestling with big thoughts and bigger feelings, those simple words seemed to be the only ones that fit. So …

I’m sorry.

I am so very sorry.

You see, I have a gift for you. A Christmas gift of sorts. And while I know this is the right time for me to give it, this gift is not what I thought it would be. I hoped it would be better by now. Not all better, of course. But … better. Gentler and kinder. Less jagged and less broken.

It’s not, though. It’s just not.

And the wrestle comes because, although this gift is flawed, I know I still have to give it to you. It belongs to you. It’s yours by right. And honestly, it’s yours already —

The world.

hope

From me to you. My arms full, outstretched, offering you this worn and tattered world.

No, you don’t have to take it all at once. I will help you carry it for a bit longer. In some ways, we will both carry it together forever. But now is when your part must begin. And now is when you must start to wrap your arms around this great, wide world.

Oh, children. How I hoped that when this time came, the world would be much more lovely than it is. Somewhere, though, I think my hope mixed with naïveté, and I ended up forgetting how to tell the difference between the two.

That happens to grown-ups sometimes. We see only what makes sense to us and try to bury what doesn’t. I guess that’s because the parts of this world that confuse us often come wrapped in pain. And it is awfully hard to lock eyes with pain. So instead, sometimes, we look away. Sometimes we just have to do that.

But part of being a grown-up is understanding the moments where we have to see. Knowing when “I just can’t look” isn’t acceptable anymore. When we have to shove aside the ache and the anger and the questions and the hurt, and open our eyes and see.

I’ve had to do that a lot this year.

And it has not been easy.

I’ve seen people rage in ways that have brought my heart to its knees. I’ve seen hate and what it does when it’s nurtured and then let loose. I’ve seen ugly words and ugly acts turn into headlines. I’ve seen nations bitterly divided. Then I’ve watched friendships, once held so tenderly, divide, too. And I still can’t decide which is more tragic.

It’s so much more than I ever wanted to see. Certainly not the world I planned to give you — the world where you are supposed to grow, settle and find your place. It feels mountainous and exhausting. And, right now, if I let myself, I could slip under a blanket called hopeless. I could set my eyes on the awful, lean hard into fear and end up holding you so tightly that you and I both struggle to breathe.

I could do that.

But I won’t.

Because this is Christmas, and Christmas is all about hope.

hope

And from what I can tell, hope only happens when we find a way to breathe deeply. So I will hold you, yes, but only with soft hands. Because this is your world. And if I keep you from it, I unjustly take from you the one gift you can give back to it …

Making it better.

You can make this world better. Today. In this time. Before you hold car keys or pay bills or answer to Mr. or Mrs. While your feet still dangle when sitting in a chair, while you still love to play in the backyard, while your hands still find dirt to dig in.

Right now you, children, can make the world better. You are a world-changer.

The beauty of being a world-changer is that it’s not as much about what you do as it is about who you are. And who you are begins at the beginning and is unbound by age or time.

So, who are you?

You are the one who smiles. And helps. And believes. The one who doesn’t laugh when everyone else is. The one who makes room at the lunch table. The one who sees skin as only a wrapping. You are the one who gives. Comfort. Kindness. Sincerity. The one who listens when everyone else just wants to talk. Who seeks to understand, not convince. Who is equal parts hear and heard. You are the one who’s brave. Quietly so or with much noise. In a whisper to one friend or in a shout to a whole crowd. And if you do it when you’re scared, it still counts. You are hope. You carry it wherever you go. And when it’s needed, you offer it up in a gentle look or a hug or maybe even a small, simple,

“I’m sorry.”

hope

Children. The world is so big. Too big to fit wholly inside your arms. That’s okay. There is yet much for you to understand. That’s okay. You don’t have to know the fullness of the ocean before you swim in it. You don’t have to wait to be.

And when the hard days come, as they will, you may want to look away. To hold a little too tightly to all you love. That’s okay, too. As long as you don’t live there — blanketed in bitterness and fear. No, in those moments you must pull yourself back into hope.

Breathe deeply once again.

Remember the gift that has been given to you.

And remember the gift you are.

hope

Merry Christmas.

Love,
Jai

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