The dictionary defines anguish as “extreme pain or distress of either body or mind.” But these are only words. Anguish is visual. It’s the look on the face of a mother who has just lost her child. It’s the look on the faces of the family who has lost everything in a fire or hurricane. It’s the look on the face of a child who just wants to go home to her room and her toys. It’s the look on the face of an elderly woman with dementia searching for words she once used to know. It’s the look on the face of an animal in a cage, abandoned, abused, alone, unknowingly waiting to be euthanized because no one wants him. Humanity knows a lot about anguish without needing to look for a definition to explain what it is we feel in moments of crisis.
I think a lot about anguish these days as I continue to view the images of the devastation from Hurricane Sandy. These images are often followed by the Christmas shopping frenzy enticements. I watched the line of people at Best Buy already camped out with their tents and grills waiting to get that special deal on a flat screen TV, willing to forfeit their Thanksgiving dinner with family just to save a little money. I guess it would be easier for me to understand if they left the store on Thanksgiving Day and handed the television or other electronic purchase to a family that has just lost everything. I look for the spiritual connection to Christmas and don’t see it in big box store ads that encourage us to spend and spend and spend when we are facing an economic crisis in our country. A good deal is important, I know, to those families who don’t have a lot of money and I guess consumer spending will help the economy a little in the end, but still I wish we could decrease our spending and increase our compassion and generosity at this time of year.
The anguished faces haunt me, yet I can’t turn away from them the way I can turn away from those people in line at Best Buy to score a bargain. I don’t see anguish on their faces. I detect a smidgen of greed during this very sad holiday time for so many. If we keep our focus on family and helping others, maybe we can still keep a little of the true spirit of Christmas.