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At Christmas, a voice from long ago still calls to us, if only we will pause to listen for a moment.

It causes me to think about West Virginians whose spirits lag, who feel as if the world has forgotten them. Are there money problems, health issues, relationship tangles, addiction, trouble finding acceptance as a member of the LGBTQ+ community? The voice that I hear surprises me. It is saying that whatever our burdens, we are blessed. Each of us is important and has value. And better times will come, no matter how distant they now may seem.

And those ancient words remind me yet that I have a duty to comfort those who mourn for a lost loved one. Perhaps COVID-19 took that person, as it has done with more 5,250 West Virginians, 800,000 Americans and well over 5 million across the world. Or perhaps some other evil bug, or an accident or maybe it was nothing more than age that drew the final curtain on that precious life. Know that there are those who will give you support, if you allow them.

Our world seems full of bluster that often is supplemented by pathetic and unwarranted claims of intellectual excellence. Thus, I am reminded to thank the meek for their quiet and steady strides toward the betterment of their families, their communities and themselves. Surely, great rewards await them.

At the holidays, I am thankful that we yet can hear that voice which reminds us it is wise and good that we hunger for the knowledge and the wisdom to understand what we ought to do in a world that seems turned on its head. If we thirst for a path to better places, we are blessed.

I find myself wishing to be more merciful, even toward those who have nothing better to do than to spread confusion, division and hate. Whether it is another misguided pundit, or a pathological former president or a father-son duo who masquerade as the mysterious Q-Anon, I know that they are miserable, and to be pitied and shown mercy. That voice from the past reminds me that the day will arrive when I need a dose of mercy myself.

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And it tells me that we are better people if our first response to an affront is a peaceful one. Not every slight is a reason to go to war. Seldom does disappointment or disrespect call for an all-out assault, whether with words or weapons. Besides, most of us lack the training and temperament to use either, when things get tense. Far too often, those who think they are Clint Eastwood end up as deadwood.

As West Virginians, we understand that there are people who say terrible things about us. Sadly, some of them are other Mountain State residents who are “always free,” yet remain shackled to delusional notions about what that means.

So, they inveigh against school board members and health department officials whose “offense” is to help them outlast a killer disease. If you are being persecuted, know that you are a member of a great big club that includes Christ himself.

By now, most of you are ahead of me. I do not wish to be accused of plagiarism. Thus, I will cite the source that I have paraphrased above. The voice I have been hearing is that of Christ, in a sermon he delivered from the Mount. On that day for the ages, he began, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

Thus, to West Virginians of all faiths, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, non-believer, Buddhist, or another rich tint of the spiritual complexion, blessings to each of you. And accept no substitutes for a very Merry Christmas!

Joseph Wyatt is a Gazette-Mail contributing columnist and emeritus professor at Marshall University. He may be contacted at

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