There are plenty of thorns on life's rose bush, and the fact that our family has come through a year basically unscathed really hit home for me.
This was a strange Christmas for me. My emotions just weren't right.
I wasn't rushed.
I felt bored for the first time in months. I just drank in the inactivity as I waited for my siblings and their families to arrive at my parents' home for our annual celebration.
Maybe I was overcome by the sensation, but I couldn't help but notice the incredible bounty that was awaiting the guests when presents were opened.
I couldn't help but wonder if the entire system of orphanages we will soon visit would have as many toys and games as our family would share with each other.
My thoughts drifted on to how blessed we were in general. Everyone that wants a job has one. All of us have our health. The year that had passed since our last Christmas together had been very good to my family.
I have friends who celebrated Christmas alone. Others faced their first holiday season since chemotherapy stole their hair. Other friends are battling marital problems. One dear older friend discovered that her husband had been hiding his medication in pockets of his wheelchair rather than taking it as prescribed. The child we will soon adopt celebrated his first Christmas without his mother.
There are plenty of thorns on life's rose bush, and the fact that our family has come through a year basically unscathed really hit home for me during a few quiet moments.
But my parents don't take that good fortune for granted. At Thanksgiving, my mother had given every grandchild $20 to use for a charitable cause. She wanted these kids who would have presents stacked around them in a month to consider those who would not. She wanted them to understand that life doesn't always guarantee that you get everything on your wish list.
When the kids reported back to her what they had done with their money, I was impressed. My son bought books for orphans in China through a program called An Orphan's Wish. He loves books and reading with his mother, and he wanted to give that to the children there.
His cousins donated to causes like shoes and socks for kids at an Oklahoma City elementary school, presents for children on an angel tree, an African education program, and one of them gave the money to my wife and me to use in our upcoming adoption.
It was overwhelming.
Their small donations won't change the world, but the lesson they learned might.
We don't know what will happen before Christmas rolls around in 2011.
Hopefully for my friends, this will be the year their marriage grew stronger, the first Christmas since their cancer was defeated, or the year the pain and symptoms became more manageable and the medication was no longer necessary.
My wife and I are anticipating the first Christmas with two sons, and I can only pray that next Christmas finds my family as happy, healthy and hopeful as this year did.
No matter what financial and physical shape Christmas 2011 finds us in, it is important to remember that we honor God's gift to the world in the form of his son by giving of ourselves to others.
If we all give our part, big issues become smaller and small problems get solved.
The older I get, the more I appreciate my parents and in-laws because of the positive example they are to my son.
I hope everyone had a great Christmas. But I also hope we each helped make someone else's Christmas better.
Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta (Kan.) Gazette.