Peace on earth and goodwill to men. It’s a sentiment found in many Christmas cards being exchanged around the world this month. The call for treating our fellow man with tolerance, respect and love fades too quickly when we enter a new year.

Peace on earth begins with each of us. Individually we can bring about peace in far off places like the Middle East, Ukraine and other geopolitical hotspots, but we can certainly affect change where we live. Peace on earth begins with good will to men. By patiently accepting, and being tolerant of others, we increase the chances for better communication and empathy.

Some are quick to temper when things don’t go their way: someone is driving too slowly, someone is taking too long at a chore—there are many petty annoyances of life that get the better of us. We can never know what another person is going through and what personal battles they are fighting  so we must give them the benefit of the doubt. Every person at some point is doing something that annoys another person. Keeping that in mind should make us empathetic to those we may be privately cursing for some slight transgression.

We need to assure that the joy and promise of the holiday season-—regardless of one’s beliefs—lights the new year. It is a personal choice to be happy and content. To be envious and covetous of others is a dead end that leads to disappointment and regret. Though we are not all equal regarding the material world, we are all equal when it comes to hopes, dreams and desires. Each of us may hope for different things but we all have the ability to be hopeful. We can choose to be joyful and wish the same for our fellow man. Man does not wake each morning wishing harm to others; just because someone has more than we does not make them better or more virtuous.

The American holiday season for many has devolved into a whirl of shopping. Too many of us bemoan the chore of buying material things to give to others as a token of our love and esteem. Is a person who has completed their Christmas shopping in August any less filled with the holiday spirit than the person who goes through their holiday chores in December?

Each of us marks the holidays according to our ancestry and our experience. The people for whom decorating and gift giving is the core of Christmas  holiday are as spirited as those who keep the celebration of the birth of Jesus at the center of the season. Man has free will and the holidays are a time to celebrate that will.

The hope and wishes for peace on earth and good will toward men is lost when we are more concerned about how others celebrate. Peace on earth begins with each of us. Peace begins from the smallest seeds of patience, understanding and tolerance. Let’s practice that throughout the new year.

Merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah.