The last of the turkey and cranberry and andouille sausage stuffing leftovers sit in the corner of the refrigerator, too much of a challenge at this point despite how delicious they were.  Hopefully you have been able to get the trample marks off the back of your shirt, if you ventured into any metropolitan area on Friday.  The World Cup arrives this week and, it’s official:  it’s the holidays.  A time of cheer and mirth and despair and torment, depending on the day or even hour.  This is the time when we celebrate the support that we receive and yearn for the support that we yet need.

I am fortunate to have a family that looks after me; an extending clan that I am always excited to see, any time of year, but especially now when the comforts of kin are most exalted.  To dread a visit home is anathema to me, but I know that fear and annoyance and hatred are the hallmarks of the return journeys of many others.  My folks and brother and the rest of my genealogy lifted me up, gave me the tools that I needed to succeed, were a support system without compare.  For some, parents are an actively destructive force, imbuing their offspring with physical and psychological burdens from which they struggle to recover, if ever.

Yet family is not the only place to which we can look for support.  We are bolstered by our tribes of friends, our coworkers, our parishioners, even professionals, if that is what you need (no, not that kind, please get your mind out of the gutter).  We can chat with a buddy on the way up the skintrack and lighten the mental load.  We can dial up a mentor, who always seems to be able to take the call and helps you in such a way that you feel like you did it yourself.  We can even unburden ourselves to the cashier when checking out with groceries.  There is and should be no shame in admitting weakness, in asking for help, in needing support.  We all do, all of the time, even those who seem like they are invincible.  Those people need support the most.

This community, with its interlocking social and work circles, is a web of overlapping support systems.  Neighbors help neighbors, businesses aid businesses, and the mutual love keeps everyone’s head above water, smiling.  From the outside, it has an aura of the macho, of the cloistered, of the exclusionary about it.  For a new arrival, it may seem like everyone has their stuff figured out, but that is only because we have learned to lean on one another.

Of course, no net can catch everything that is falling.  The literal and figurative darkness of this season pushes the healthiest among us to distraction and the troubled in our community to places of inconceivable pain.  To the former we will be joyful and to the latter we must be attentive, ever vigilant, ever ready with a hug or a warm cookie or a simple word of encouragement.  We will support others as we wish to be supported and in so doing, will receive all of the support that we need.