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I always enjoy watching my children have fun on the soccer field. They are super stars (in my eyes) on their team! But more importantly, their teams make them better.

From my seat in the uncomfortable camping chairs, I not only get to see their smiles, I get a glimpse into the future.

Through sports and play, our children learn how to be friends, sisters, brothers, teammates, arbitrators, caregivers and consolers. With proper guidance, they learn to work together and share the ball. They learn to enjoy making the assist as well as scoring the goal. They learn that to win, they must work together.

As they grow older, the basic nature of their social interactions will remain the same, even as the location may change from athletic field to campus to job site to home.

If all goes well, my children and yours will never lose their appreciation for the bonds of mutual support and compassion for other human beings. We have to hope these bonds of empathy won’t get buried under the loads of cynicism, distrust, anger and resentment people so often are burdened with on their journeys to adulthood.

We all are susceptible, to some degree, to this sad syndrome, which causes us to lose sight of our connection to others who are different or need help.

Our current social and political environment — mass shootings, heated campaign rhetoric, toxic political commentators and more — is making the problem worse, pitting “us” against “them,” whoever “they” might be.

America is being divided into tribes that despise each other, and this division may be blinding us to solutions that have the potential of uniting us in solving the problems we all share.

We can bring down the temperature and tension that diminish the quality of our lives by focusing on what unites us as Americans.

The perfect time

The holiday season is a perfect time to refocus our lives. It’s the time of year when we are called to step out of our personal bubbles, come together around the dinner table and realize that the beliefs which divide us are insignificant compared to the beliefs we share.

Friendship, compassion and commonality of purpose — these are traits we all admire and aspire to achieve with our family members, neighbors and coworkers, even if we don’t see eye to eye on every issue.

The sadness we felt watching the news in recent weeks — witnessing the pain in Pittsburgh and Thousand Oaks inflicted by deranged killers and the devastations caused by deadly wildfires in California — must not be allowed to take over our lives and cause us to withdraw from hope.

The grief stemming from such events can be enormous, but the overflowing of kindness and selflessness that springs from their aftermath can be even greater.

The candlelight vigils, the donations of food and supplies to survivors and first responders — all of these and more

remind us we are all one community of Americans and human beings.

Making a difference

Given the choice between despair and action, I will choose action every time. Doing something to help others is great medicine for the soul.

For example, folks in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah can help fire victims in California by making donations to our UFCW family through Pressing the “send” button can feel mighty good!

At the least, we should embrace our empathy by thinking of those who have lost their homes and reflecting on the importance of our own homes for ourselves and our loved ones. Even if we’ve never had to evacuate our home or watch it vanish before our eyes, we can resolve to never take it for granted.

From my perspective on the soccer field camping chairs, I’m filled with hope that my kids and their friends will hold tight to the bonds of empathy they have forged.

These are the bonds that give meaning and purpose to our lives. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays to all.