By John Salisbury

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day, Their old, familiar carols play, And wild and sweet. The words repeat, Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I had planned to retire this annual December theme this year, but I feel the need to trot it out this Christmas season once again, especially because 2020 has to go down as an all-time chaotic mess in so many ways – pandemic, politics, weather, fires, hurricanes, and on it goes! Please read and heed this poem before you go to a happy family or friend’s festive gathering, probably seriously downsized this year, and politics or some other adverse discussion starts to wreck the mood. Just take a sip or two of your wine and relax.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Virgin of Guadalupe, Ashura, and Kwanzaa. It is a great time of year for all faiths that can worship freely, or not, in the USA, which is what makes us such a great country versus what goes on in many other parts of the world. “Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be” (or her, as a farmer, I am also a big believer in Mother Nature).

My Christmas gift and wish for you is this poem Desiderata (Latin: “desired things”), which was a prose poem written in 1927 by American writer Max Ehrmann. Those of you from my generation should remember it well. It was popular in the early 70s when I picked up a promotional copy from my local bank. I had it framed, and it has either been in my home or office, always in plain sight ever since. My copy states the poem was found in Old Saint Paul’s Church in Baltimore, dated 1692 and anonymous. This led to great confusion as to when the poem was written and by whom. Starting in 1956, the Church used the poem as a piece of devotional material with the Church’s letterhead, which stated “1692” which was the year the Church was founded, not the date of the poem.

It became popular later by Leonard Nimoy’s “Spock Thoughts” album where “Be cheerful” was changed to “Be careful” and also in Les Crane’s very popular spoken-word recording of the poem. I have tried to live by the poem most of my life, along with my parents and mother-in-law’s loving guidance. I just wish I had paid better heed to parts of it. Wouldn’t it be a great world if we could all buy into this classic?


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. 

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons. 

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant, they too have their story. 

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit. 

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter; for always; there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. 

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. 

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. 

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery. 

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. 

Be yourself. 

Especially, do not feign affection. 

Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. 

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth. 

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. 

But do not stress yourself with imaginings. 

Many fears are born of fatigue & loneliness. 

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. 

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. 

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, 

and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. 

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.  

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

~ Max Ehrmann,
American writer/poet.