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My Wish for the Season of Renewal

It’s time we vow to take better care of one another

Bay Weekly’s 51st issue of the year celebrates family, the warm nest where we are born and nurtured.
    For this is the season of birth, which we enter each year in hopes of renewal.
    If it seems to you a little odd — as it does to me — that our cultural feasts of rebirth fall in the darkest time of the year, when in our cold clime is just setting in, there’s good reason.
    This week’s solstice begins a new year of hope, as we pass the nadir of darkness and rise to the apex of light six months from now. The birth of Christ just a few days past the winter solstice is Christianity’s redemption of the old pagan holiday.
    In that spirit, Chesapeake Country artist and naturalist John Taylor dates this solstice as the beginning of Chesapeake spring.
    These hope-filled times, our thoughts turn to our families, to the people who’ve created us and the people we’re creating. That’s where our writers turn, as well.
    Staff writer Ashley Brotherton takes her turn at our annual Christmas story, which this year is a warm, funny depiction of her 48 hours on the run to share the holiday with her large blended family. Michelle Steel writes about the most beautiful Christmas tree of all, the one she — and each of us — decorates in our home. And Lisa Knoll writes The Dish about her family’s traditional Christmas breakfast, which I’ll share again this year with her, my son Alex and their children Jack and Elsa, who carries my mother’s name into the future.
    Yet this season of hope is overcast with tragedy. For as we draw close to our own families, our hearts go out to the families of Newtown, Connecticut, whose children and mothers died at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
    The people we entrust with making policy will, with our urging, enact new gun laws and programs in support of the most vulnerable and troubled people in our society. It’s our job to keep them to that task.
    But we all have other jobs closer to home, in our own families, communities and schools.
    Asperger’s syndrome may — or may not — have been the force that drove Adam Lanza to mass murder. We don’t know.
    What we do know is that alienation erupting into rage fuels people to commit acts like his.
    Alienation is a syndrome we can fight in our families and in our schools.
    My own family’s story convinces me that burdens we carry throughout life are laid on our shoulders in our homes, our communities and our schools. My own experience as a mother shows me that children are forming moment by moment in our world, as surely as they are in nine months in our wombs. I know firsthand that we are not careful enough with our children.
    Parents caught up in their own histories and carrying their own burdens raise their children in judgment and neglect rather than love.
    Children made to feel imperfect in themselves gain the illusion of strength by taunting and bullying one another.
    Schools concentrate on the latest sure-cure belief system rather than on teaching the young people in their care.
    Communities fracture into self-interest and tax aversion, forgetful that we’re all in this together.
    Fred Rogers — the Mr. Rogers of children’s television — has emerged nine years after his death as a talisman for these troubled times. Gone viral is photographer Jim Judkis’ image of Mr. Rogers in rapt eye and hand embrace with a child who could have been the model for angels. Seeing that image again, as we all have, reminds me that Mr. Rogers was the best angel of my own early motherhood. He counseled me to be tender, as he encouraged all who watched his shows to take care of one another.
    That’s action we can all vow to take in this family-focused season of grief and renewal.
    May your heart — and mine — open in love this Christmas.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; [email protected]

The Relevance of Anne Arundel’s upcoming Mental Health Symposium

I was struck by your cogent commentary regarding the “alienation that erupts into rage” that compels people to commit violent acts (Dec. 20). Your comments reminded me of Truman Capote’s book, In Cold Blood, that focused on the relationship between parental abuse and violent crimes.
Physical and psychological abuse can last a lifetime, and emotional malnutrition is a salient part of our mental health crisis.
Unfortunately, mental health budgets have been slashed at all levels of government. This subject and others will be discussed at the County’s Second Mental Health Symposium to be held in the Cade Building, Room 219, at Anne Arundel Community College from 9 to 11am on February 12, 2013.

–John R. Leopold, Anne Arundel County Executive