February 21, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Joy? I wonder!

By |2018-03-21T19:47:04+01:00November 27th, 2015|"American Girl"|
Peace on Earth? Really? What about just joy, I wonder?

ere we go again. The world is a mess just in time for the holidays. At first it was just a single incident. Now each country seems to be taking turns with bombings, terrorists, migrant swells, and all-out wars.

It’s exhausting and seems unlikely to abate anytime soon.

I decided to distract myself by going shopping for Christmas cards. I usually don’t want to even think about anything “ho-ho” and “jolly” before December first, but this year isn’t a normal one.

Walking not far from my office, I dodged the New York City crowds and slipped into a Hallmark card store.

On seeing Hallmark’s cursive logo, unchanged from my youth, I instantly felt better. The sappy tagline, “When you care enough to send the very best” came to mind and I felt a warm glow. Just the bit of warm-fuzzy I needed.

I walked down the aisle past the “thank you” and “birthday” cards to the seasonal section festively adorned in bright red. Merry Christmas! It shouted.

Merry was what I needed. Now, what to pick?

UNICEF sponsors cards with children of every color and land holding hands and smiling. The earth plays a staring roll as the famous blue marble called home. How uplifting, I thought smiling. One big happy human race!

Then it hit me. How silly! If only it were true. The world isn’t like this. Didn’t a country just finish building a wall with the words, “Keep out” for war refugees to read? Ugh, I sighed. I can’t buy this. It’s a lie.

I moved on to the traditional section. These cards glowed with home-fires, drifting snow and wreathed doors. Sparkles made the snow glisten. “Peace on Earth” was embossed along the bottom.

The image of a quiet moment in the comfort of home was dreamy.

But wait. Does anyone even have a hearth at home anymore? It’s more likely to be the glow of a television or iPad. Maybe I can overlook that.

But Peace on Earth? There is no peace on earth! We’re on a worldwide terrorist alert for gosh sake!

I admonished myself for becoming so despondent so quickly. Reality had seeped in.

As a last result, I shuffled to the religious section. There my eye caught three men on camels traveling over sand dunes.

My favorite Christmas story, the three wise men! Balthasar, a king of Arabia, Melchior, a king of Persia, and Gaspar, a king of India. “Good Will to All Mankind,” it read.

But my mind flashed to the latest events from the Middle East. Who was bombing whom this week? Saudi Arabia and Yemen? Syria? There were too many conflicts this week to keep track of. Goodwill to all mankind? Really?

I was at odds with Christmas myth making and disillusioned. The idea of holiday cards as an uplifting distraction just wasn’t working.

Then, while walking out, I finally saw it: the perfect card. In big block letters with a hefty dose of sprinkles and bold colors it simply read, “JOY! WONDER!”

Yes! Simple and direct, I can live with that. I’m even prepared to add in some edited humor: “JOY? I WONDER!” I smiled at the irony. I grabbed two boxes, paid, and headed out the door. Now, finally, I was ready to face the holidays, and the world.

About the Author:

Madeline Klosterman wrote the "American Girl" column from 2008 through 2019.