The Reason
For The Season
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2022 -- I have said this before. I will say it again. I will say it whenever anyone asks. I will say it for as long as I have this platform.

When all is said and done, we travelers live lives of incredible privilege.

Even when our lives on the road stink, in the cosmic totality of things, our complaints are astoundingly trivial. Airlines are stupid. Hotels charge too much. Security lines are too long. Flights are late. Seats are uncomfortable. Frequent flyer miles are hard to cash. Upgrades are impossible to get. There are a million fees. The hotel is too far away from our appointment. The Uber was late. Our mobile phone screen cracked. Our laptops eat our data. These things are trivial and, essentially, unimportant.

And I have said this before, too: When all is said and done, we travelers also live lives of denial.

We have mastered the art of looking away when we see homeless people camped out at an airport terminal because that's where they can find a few hours of warmth. We can drive through a slum en route to our appointment and never think twice about the kids who are ill-fed and ill-clothed. We can even turn a blind eye to the street person sleeping on a bed of cardboard in the doorway across the street from the lobby of our $300-a-night hotel.

Our ability to deny is sometimes so complete that we need to have it thrust back in our face before we can regain a sense of reality. I've often told you of a woman who claimed there were never homeless people in Hawaii. She really thought that street dwellers she saw in Waikiki were vagrants who had been given plane tickets to Honolulu by the city fathers of mainland cities. It was only after I drew an absurd and ridiculous word picture--the homeless folks, black plastic bags in the overhead bin, being offered the chicken or the beef on the flight over the Pacific--that she realized the folly of her thinking.

This year, I know, denial is harder to come by. After all, you cannot see the damage from this year's hurricanes and still be in denial. Russia's vicious war on Ukraine and its people makes it hard to deny anything. This year, the problem is exhaustion. We've all been asked to go to the charity well so often lately that we're mentally drained. Who has the energy to keep giving? How much is enough? Again?

I do not have the answers to those questions. I only have the same question I have every year: How are you going to get beyond your denial and its new partner, exhaustion?

As you sit there, in the midst of another holiday season, staring at these words on the screen of a costly electronic device, I ask only: What are you doing to help?

It's not my place to preach. You don't surf here to be lectured. And, God knows, I have no right. I live my life on the road in the same haze of privilege and denial and exhaustion as most travelers.

But I do know the reason for this season. It isn't the presents we are giving, it's about the life we are leading.

We travelers lead lives of great privilege. And even if we've lived other years in denial and are mentally, emotionally and financially exhausted this year, we shouldn't let the holiday season pass without giving something back.

Give back love. Give back cash. For that matter, give back miles and points.

Every airline frequent flyer plan has a mileage-donation program. Hotels and credit cards have points-donation schemes, too. Just call the service center, ask how to do it and which charitable organizations they sponsor. Or surf to your airline or hotel home page and search "donations." Or check directly with your favorite charity. This is easy to do. Those miles and points you've been squirreling away for a trip are easy to redirect into a powerful donation to soothe your soul.

It has been a tough year. We are tired, exhausted and drained. The pandemic still lurks and the travel industry has used it to make our lives immeasurably worse. Everyone--flyers, flight attendants, pilots, baggage handlers--are counting down the number of flights left in 2022. We're all looking forward to a couple of weeks of rest and relaxation at our favorite place: home.

And that's the point. We have a home. Maybe we don't see it often enough, but we have one. There's food in the refrigerator, sheets on a bed, television and Internet and, maybe, a family who wants to be reintroduced to you.

That, to me, counts as a life of incredible privilege. And it comes with a responsibility to remember the reason for the season.