Sunday is Christmas Eve, a caffeinated day of traffic, lines and stress. Listen in the last days before the 25th, and you can even hear a manic edge in the ringing bells of the Salvation Army's red kettle minders. So this is a good day to call forth the better angels of our natures and reflect, even if only for a moment in the rush, even if only after you've run yourself ragged.
Wind down with a smile, partake of some good news that ran in these pages and online over the last year, in case you missed it. Our business often lends itself to the opposite of merry. After all — no conflict, no story; what counts as news is often bad news.
But not always. Check out some encouraging stories at The Upside, where we've compiled both local and national stories and columns about great achievements, kindness and care that can take the edge off the manic and put our divisions in their place.
There you'll find stories like Alex DeMarban's "Chain saw in hand, Alaskan hitchhikes around Puerto Rico, helping the island recover," Charles Wohlforth's "They were homeless once. Now they help others living on city streets," Tegan Hanlon's "This Anchorage gas station owner didn't want anyone to go hungry on Thanksgiving Day," and Michelle Theriault Boots' "With donations pouring in, terminally ill Maryland woman stranded in Alaska will go home."
And there's Julia O'Malley's compilation of thank-you messages from Thanksgiving — "He's somewhere out there and I want to thank him."
These are powerful antidotes to the stories of stolen cars and stolen presents and worse in Anchorage. The old saying maintains that it's better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Good neighbors have lit these candles, and we're privileged to carry the light.
That's why it's a pleasure to run those letters to the editor that thank a nameless Good Samaritan who returned a purse, rescued a dog or fixed a flat. They're predictable and good. The writers work from the heart and the letters evoke a smile.
Bemoan the intense commercial element of the season as we might, the spirit is still more than a match. The Neighborhood GIFT event of the Salvation Army and other agencies at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage in mid-December was proof. Volunteers escorted people toting 20-pound turkeys, toys and groceries over patches of ice in the parking lot; the excitement of kids at the sight of presents testified to grace in the city.
Then there was the call from a woman named Betty, who said she was 86 and wanted to share what had just happened to her. She said a cashier was helping her at the self-checkout at the Fred Meyer in Muldoon when a "big man" began putting money in the machine. The cashier tried to explain that they weren't finished yet.
"He looked at her and said 'I'm paying for her groceries.' "
Betty added that she wasn't the only such recipient.
"Now you tell me angels don't walk in Alaska," she said.
Merry Christmas, or whatever your holiday is this season. May we all walk more often with the angels.
BOTTOM LINE: Keep the candles alight.