Today's Paper Arkansas News Legislature Newsletters Core Values Sports Public Notices Archive Obits Puzzles Opinion Story Ideas

OPINION | BRENDA LOOPER: What’s important

by Brenda Looper | December 21, 2022 at 4:21 a.m.
Brenda Looper

A reader recently reminded me of a Christmas column I wrote that she enjoyed, so I thought I'd share an updated version of what was originally published Dec. 20, 2017.

Some things have changed since then, most notably with the deaths of my mom in 2019, and brother Corey last year. I'll be spending the holiday this year with part of my family by choice, but will be thinking of my family by blood and sending them all my love.

In just a few days, it will be Christmas. Whether I'm with my family or not, I always think of our Christmases together.

It's not the gifts that I remember. Sure, there was my first bike, and the training wheels that lasted just two days before I demanded they be taken off. If my brothers could ride without them, then I should too. Come to think of it, that's also how I learned to read. And there was the Spirograph, Shrinky Dinks, Lite-Brite (with the creepy clown on the box), Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine and other toys I played with till they wore out.

But gifts were never the focus of our Christmases.

Once we were all grown up, we pretty much stopped exchanging gifts, understanding that other things were more important. There was, instead, the warmth of family love and the belief in better things to come. There was the food, of course (Nanny Kaylor's Red Velvet cake on Christmas Eve, or the soup, chili, and chocolate pie at Nanny and Grandpa Terrell's Christmas Day), and the prayers Uncle Charlie always offered before dinner. And humor, no matter which side of the family we were with, because if someone was going to laugh at you, it was usually less painful if it was family. We knew where everybody lived and were more than happy to pull a few pranks.

What do I wish for this Christmas? More than anything, I'd like peace--peace between nations, religious denominations, political parties, and any other perpetually ticked-off groups. Find ways to get along, like ... oh, I don't know ... acknowledge that we're all (well, mostly) human and that few people actually embody the stereotypes attached to certain labels, and judge people on their own merits.

I would also love a return to reality. For some people, it seems that provable facts and evidence don't matter anymore; what matters is how they feel about something (or how they're told to feel by those they admire, especially if those people they admire undermine sources of information they don't like).

When we can't even agree on basic facts, there's no hope for productive debate. Not that there's much of that going on right now, anyway, with all the insults, faulty logic and "nah, you're wrong"-flinging with no discussion of why someone is wrong (other than just being part of the opposition). I was terrible in debate in high school (I suck at extemporaneous speaking, and I only won one match in competition), but I never would have won any match at all if I didn't provide evidence for my case, instead resorting to name-calling and "nuh-uhs." It's not like I was debating 5-year-olds on the playground.

I'd like to return to a reality where we listen to each other, don't seek out offenses to complain about, where we can agree on proven facts, and where we don't feel the need to spin conspiracy theories or redefine words if something isn't turning out as we would like. A reality where we recognize that undermining a free press is dangerous to our freedoms, and that responsible journalists don't campaign for approval from those they cover; they do their jobs without favor to anyone.

If we must live in an alternative reality, I'd like one where premium chocolate (none of that fake "chocolate-flavored" stuff) has no calories and is freely available, and where those we love (human or animal) never die. Sure, it might get a little crowded, but we'd have all that chocolate to soothe the humans.

Lastly, I'd love to have a world where people don't take every tiny thing so seriously that they forget to laugh. Humor is important not only in its value as a stress reliever, but because it often reveals deeper truths (and we know how I feel about truth). Not everybody gets every type of humor (I, for example, speak fluent sarcasm and word nerd while many don't; toilet and insult humor, not so much), but surely everyone needs to laugh every once in a while to maintain some semblance of sanity.

Unless you like being one of those people whose face will crack if you smile.

I reflected on all this this past weekend after getting in an accident on my way home from an afternoon with a friend. As I write this, I have no idea if my car will be totaled out, a crushing blow in a year where I've had four very large expenses that have drained me, and at Christmastime, when I'm already missing those who've left this life.

But that's not what's important. What's important is that I have friends who truly care, and they've stepped up to ferry me wherever I need to go until I get a rental while awaiting repairs or a new-to-me car, and let me start my house/cat-sitting gig early so I'm not alone with my thoughts.

I might be poor monetarily, but on the friend and family front, I'm rich indeed.

Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at Read her blog at

Print Headline: What’s important


Sponsor Content