This year’s holiday message has nothing to do with Christmas trees, traffic jams at NorthPark, or whether most of us wait until the last minute to do our shopping.

It’s a lot more subtle – and a lot more rewarding.

If the events of the past year in East Dallas and Lakewood have demonstrated anything, it wasn’t that the world was going to hell in a handbasket, collapsing before our eyes, or turning into a muddled mess.

Instead, what 1995 showed was that compassion, understanding and compromise – the hallmarks of the holiday season – pay off. The system works if we’re willing to give it a chance.

This may hardly seem earth-shaking, and it may even sound a little naïve, especially when it’s compared to what we hear from all of the wise guys who mouth off on TV every night.

After all, as they remind us, our system has brought us courtrooms that want to be movie sets, a seemingly infinite number of Congressmen who want to be president, and a president who seems to be a little confused about what he’s supposed to be doing.

Besides, we know the system isn’t perfect and that it doesn’t always work the way it should. This is the 1990s, after all, when each of us wears our cynicism with pride.

But those are lousy reasons to give up on the system, and here are a couple of examples from around here that demonstrate why.

This first illustrates the Law of Political Perspective: If you spend all of your time saying something is true, you start to believe it is true – even if it isn’t.

Six months ago, a deal was supposedly done to rape the taxpayers and line the pockets of some of Dallas’ most powerful and influential fat cats. That’s when, the wise guys told us, we were going to squander bushels of City money to build a new sports arena.

But we didn’t line anyone’s pocket, we didn’t squander bushels of money, and we certainly didn’t build a new sports arena. So much for the done deal.

We didn’t do any of those because many of the people who live here didn’t like that idea.

Ask any of East Dallas’ Council members, and they’ll tell you they heard from their constituents – and what they heard was that it would be nice to have a new stadium, but not at the expense of law enforcement, property tax relief and pothole repair.

The second example demonstrates the Political Big Bang Theory: Just because something doesn’t get a lot of publicity doesn’t mean it doesn’t get accomplished.

The residents of Mill Creek, a neighborhood below Fitzhugh that straddles Gaston, have been trying a couple of years to reach a zoning compromise with a strip shopping center on Gaston.

The property is part of a planned development district, where each party – the residents, the property owners, and the City – are supposed to work together to figure out the best use for the land.

The biggest disagreement was over liquor-oriented businesses, which the landlord wanted and the neighborhood didn’t.

After two years of quiet work – without fanfare, demonstrations in front of City Hall, threats, screaming or lawsuits – the issue was settled.

Each side gave a little, and therefore didn’t get everything it wanted. The landlord is going to have to find someone other than a liquor-oriented business to lease to, and the neighborhood agreed to let the businesses stay until their leases were up.

The system worked, jut like it’s supposed to, and the neighborhood is better off because of it.

That’s an impressive holiday message by any standard.