SpongeBob Squarepants' creator died last month, but his character's wisdom lives on in an era that needs it most: "Bring joy to the world; it's the thing to do / But the world does not revolve around you...."
Stephen Hillenburg, who died a month ago tomorrow at age 57, wanted his character to represent innocence and goodness to a massive TV audience. Through SpongeBob, the marine biology teacher told viewers to be kind, thoughtful and selfless throughout the Christmas season and beyond.
Do right by others in all things big and small, implored Hillenburg's sponge. Don't go through the express checkout line with more than 10 items. Use turn signals in traffic. Don't interrupt, don't spit gum on the sidewalk and don't put people down or leave the toilet seat up. Don't whine about gifts we did not get.
Mostly, "Be nice to babies and animals, old folks, too / 'Cause that's how you'd like them to treat you...
"Don't be a jerk / It's Christmas."
It was Hillenburg's new take on the theme of a much older song that implores us to "Let There Be Peace on Earth."
All over the world, this year, we have witnessed the best and worst in humanity. We have seen humans persecuted, tortured and killed for their ethnic traits, skin tone and religious beliefs. We have seen vicious battles that pit "right" against "left" at dinner tables and all over social media. We see tribal wars and multinational conflicts around the globe. We hear about a seemingly intractable epidemic of human trafficking.
We also witness churches, businesses, police departments, fire departments, bikers, synagogues, temples, mosques and secular charities looking for opportunities to gift strangers and improve the state of humanity.
In Longmont, Colorado, a donor walked into a Walmart and asked how much was owed on Christmas layaway items. The secret Santa wrote a check for more than $45,000 to cover the cost of goods on hold for those trying to scrounge and save enough money to buy them. It was a pure act of kindness.
Charities throughout Colorado Springs raise money this time of year to help everyone, from every possible background, experience the miracle of the Hanukkah-Christmas-New Year holiday season.
The Gazette-El Pomar Foundation Empty Stocking Fund raises money to help community organizations, including Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, American Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado and Catholic Charities of Central Colorado. The campaign has raised more than $20 million since Gazette employees began it as an in-house fundraising effort in 1984.
The Empty Stocking Fund began this year's fundraising on Thanksgiving and will continue soliciting donations through Jan. 18.
Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Kwanza, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day bring us together for office parties, community festivities and family feasts. Most Americans are happy to share in any or all of these celebrations, regardless of personal religious affiliations. The common theme is love. This time of year brings out the best in most of us. Let's remember these days throughout the coming year, never forgetting those who have suffered the permanent loss of loved ones who cannot be replaced.
Have a great Christmas season by sharing and spreading joy.
REPRINTED FROM THE COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE