T.S. Poetter is a teacher, author and a political figure._
During this holiday season, T.S. Poetter – an ordained minister, college professor, and author – suggests that we return to our roots this coming month, following the pull of “place” to reclaim a sense of wonder, hope, joy, and especially “centeredness,” the feeling that despite the hustle and bustle of the season that you are in the middle of it fully with the right things in mind, celebrating birth and rebirth of the Christ Child and your own life, personally, professionally, and with family.
The Thanksgiving — Christmas season offers more opportunities than shopping for reclaiming our lives. I want to suggest several things to do or pay attention to in the coming season, especially with regard to “place.” One of the things that continues to grip me during the holiday season, which for me now extends from Halloween (Oct. 31) through Epiphany (Jan. 6) – is the powerful pull I feel to certain _places_ that still have an impact on my life, on how I think about the world, and on how I try to tap a sense of happiness and purpose on a daily basis by visiting these places, and perhaps “merely” by remembering them and reminiscing. This season, tune in to the following things, ideas:
1. Tap your family roots
My Father, Reverend Howard Henry Poetter, followed in the footsteps of his Father, Reverend John Henry Poetter, as a pastor of mostly small, Midwestern churches in the 1950s-1970s. Dad passed away in 1976 when I was only 13, but not before he took us on trips to Northeast Ohio to visit our extended family during our childhoods, around the areas in the vicinity of the city of Wadsworth, Ohio. Every single time I find myself in the car traveling north from Columbus, Ohio, on I-71 toward the metropolises in Northeast Ohio, I feel this warm pull toward the ground, as if it were calling me, claiming me. I feel at those times like a human “divining rod,” the kind that old, bearded well finders might use to scare up a new well for a desperate farmer. I have a hard time verbalizing this feeling to family members and friends. I honestly think they might think me a little crazy if I described the phenomenon to them. But the truth is that the ground seems to beckon me when I’m in that vicinity. My heart races a little, and I feel warmer, more secure. It’s as though my body knows where I belong, what feels right, where my center is. We are planning a family trip to the region this season!
2. You can go home again.
The same feeling holds true when I visit my home town, St. Marys, Ohio, located on the east side of Grand Lake St. Marys in Northwest Ohio. I grew up in a parsonage just a few steps from the church my father served. On winter nights near Christmas, the light from the church, the glimmer of Christmas lights on trees and houses near ours in the neighborhood, and the streetlights reflecting on the snowy ground caused a gleam that brightened the night sky around our home. What a sight out the picture window of our comfortable, warm home during those early days. When I visit there periodically, I drive past our old house, and imagine myself staring out the large picture window at the sights of the town and the lights. I also picture the Christmas tree decorated to the hilt near the fireplace, with stockings hanging from the mantle in anticipation of Santa’s next visit. The place feels so warm, inviting, and secure. When I think of it I smile. I might even tear up a little at the thought that I had the privilege of growing up in such a beautiful place, and that I was cared for and loved there by friends and family. Such is the power of place. Take every opportunity to reclaim these memories, and if you can, visit these places of beauty this year, either by taking a trip or a short car ride. Do it – You won’t regret the trip.
3. Appreciate true beauty
I supposed it’s possible that some would claim I’m too nostalgic for Christmases past, that I’m stuck in the past, hopelessly less focused on today and the future than I should be. But I’ve always rejected these claims, because one of the most important things we can do, especially when we spend time with family members intensely during this coming month, is try as hard as we can to focus on the beauty in our lives, the tender memories that still tingle our mind’s eye periodically, that make our hearts leap when we recall events and people and places that shaped us, both the good and the bad. This is a season of reconciliation, of facing our hurts and fears head on. My sense is that our memories, our pasts, our images of beauty, especially the ones already emblazoned in us, hold the key to next steps, a great day today and many lasting and good tomorrows.
I hope your journey is filled with love, hope, and reconciliation this Christmastide. I’ll be paying attention to my journey this year, taking key steps along the way to be in the places that bring me continuous joy and to be with the people that make me tick, friends and family who love me no matter what; this is where I want to be this Christmas. This season, take a few moments to remember a place where you felt this way, especially at Holiday time. And I’m not asking you to do any visualization exercises! But one way to make the season brighter, to center yourself, to make it possible for you to see more clearly the hope, possibility, and love in the season outside its mere trappings, is to remember and reflect on these images of beauty. It is healthy, and good, to remember them, to reclaim them, and to use them to blaze a way forward in the way we live our lives in ways that make life better – by being committed to others, and by being aware of our surroundings, not blinded by the past, but more open to the future and its potential for beauty, and for good.