That’s the Spirit

This time of year always finds me a little misty. It’s not necessarily the holidays themselves, with some significant childhood baggage in that sleigh every year along with the presents. I’m not alone, of course. But then you’ll catch me, lost in reverie as some sappy song plinks along in the background. For a few weeks, it’s all you hear, everywhere. Holiday music. Then it’s gone, packed away with the tinsel, the twinkle lights, and the holiday spirit that makes people willing to be just a little more friendly (when they’re not behind the wheel, I mean).

Sure, holiday music can be treacly, but not all of it. What is Christmas but the universality of experience on this planet, a human hope that something, some belief, some truth could light the way for a better tomorrow? Why does that have to be a once-a-year thing?

What brought this to mind was actually the Winter 2014 issue of Johns Hopkins Nursing magazine. It, like those that have come before and will come yet, arrived to inform and, we hope, entertain its 35,000-40,000 readers with the universal experience that is nursing. Then, it will be set aside as all periodicals are, to become a handy occasional reference source for some, a scrapbook item for some others, recycling for many. (As we’d say in the newspaper business, today’s news will be lining the birdcage or wrapping the fish bones tomorrow.) That’s too bad, because some of the stuff in the magazine is pretty good. And honest-to-goodness hard work went into making the thing. But that’s how it goes: Everything builds up to that moment of publication, the hopes and dreams for an issue that will touch any who pick it up. Will it be good enough? Will the people we write about be happy? Will we have our facts straight? What’s left? Oh my god, we forgot to ask the Archives for the high-res version of that photo! And we need it today!

Then it’s done.

And a sense of, I don’t know, maybe sadness sets in. A letdown. The blues. A longing for something that carries greater meaning.

Then somewhere an old chestnut plays. And it’s the holiday season again, and for a moment the gloom lifts.

We’ve been looking for ways to give these stories of Hopkins Nurses life beyond the pages of the magazine, turning our profiles of student scholarship winners into videos, perhaps, or just posting various articles on an Internet sharing site for any and all who are curious about what we do here at the Hopkins School of Nursing. (The Web is a voracious eater of “content,” and ours can be fairly palatable, I’m thinking.) There is an online version of the magazine, of course. And the paper version does live on as an ambassador for the school — with potential students and their parents, with donors and alumni, with potential recruits of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Slowly but surely, news once “trapped” inside the magazine’s covers is getting out there.

And I think this can work for some “holiday” music as well. (I’m tired of hiding Christmas tunes on my phone, surreptitiously pulling it from my pocket like some greasy, booze-filled flask when I need a shot of holly jolly in, say, June.) Certain songs are just too specifically snow and mistletoe. But “There’s Always Tomorrow,” Clarisse the cute reindeer’s weeper, works for me anytime. Or take “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Heck, summer ain’t so bad either. Tweak it just a bit and (sing it with me and Andy Williams) …

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
There’ll be days by the ocean
And sun tanning lotion
And crabcakes and beer!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Or autumn …

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Set your clocks back an hour
Sleep while your kids shower
The school bus is here!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Spring …

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Graduation is looming
The flowers a-blooming
The skies bright and clear!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

You love it, right? I’ll work on fixing all the other songs (I’ve got some time between magazine issues). Gosh, I’m feeling merrier already.

A happy, safe, and magical holiday season to one and all and a healthy, prosperous 2015 as well.

-Steve St. Angelo

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