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And Like That, It's Over

Kevin Spacey’s character in The Usual Suspects has a great line near the end of the movie. In describing his alter ego, who is an elusive conman, he says, “And like that, he’s gone.” Keyser Soze is a cold-hearted vigilante who gets what he wants and then disappears without a trace. There is a lot of sound and fury, and in an almost mystical getaway, he is never heard from again. I think Christmas is a lot like that.

We spend the better part of November and December worrying about what gifts to buy, arranging travel plans, making lists, and wondering if there will ever be enough time. The calendar slowly approaches the doomsday that is the week of Christmas, and we are magically transformed into little children again as we rip open presents and wait for Santa. But then, the clock strikes midnight on the 26th, and like that, it’s over.

The collective world breathes a sigh of relief when the wrapping paper is thrown away, the leftovers have been refrigerated, and the tree all but boxed up. And, as quickly as we can take the Christmas music out of our iPod and wait in long lines for discounted wreaths, the holiday is a distant memory. We pack it away like we help pack the cars of those distant cousins that walk into our lives for a week a year. In a flash, it disappears out of sight.

What if the genocide in Darfur was over just as quickly? Sure, I’m an optimist this time of year, but what if? What if the tangled webs now woven of legislation, history and territory were over as quickly as we take down the Nativity?

Reality tells a different story. Those who are working diligently on the front lines know that rewards are small and that success is measured in the long term. Those of us writing about the situation from American living rooms hope with all the optimism that Christmas can bring, and wrestle with the actuality of the 364 days in between. Pray for quick relief, and work with perseverance.

“And Like That, It's Over”