‘Tis the Season to Be . . .

Everyone knows the next word:  Jolly.  After decking the halls with boughs of holly, that’s what we’re to be.  But suppose your halls are decked with no heat, peeling paint, and no money for the rent?   It puts a little different slant on things and that can make Christmas a very depressing time.  This is not going to be a column of Mr. Grinch running amok, but those hard facts are worth some reflection.

Almost everyone has concerns this year that are greater than those of “the good old days.”  But it’s helpful to remember that when those days were actually being lived they were called, “these trying times.”

The economy is as bad as it has been in recent years. As a people we can be grateful that we’ve being doing our job; we have been spending quite briskly, according to the business reports.  That much of it has been done on credit is a matter for concern another day; right now, the merchants are happy and that’s good.

It will be interesting to see the figures on end-of-year charitable giving.  If they track right along or even exceed the increase in consumer spending that would indeed be good news.  Not only will it help those in need, it would show that our hearts are still in the right place.

The seduction of Christmas advertising is hard to resist.  We really do need that new car – or other products that delete the ravages of the years and make us oh-so-attractive to whomever it is that we deem important to impress.  On the other side, those who receive the benefits of our largess under the tree will come to realize that we really should be forgiven for all the less than-wonderful things we have perpetrated.  One would hope that our emotions are more mature than falling for that hype.

That said, it is a special time of the year.  Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, we can all think about the past year, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.  No one is exempt from some measure of each of those, although it doesn’t seem very well balanced when looking around with open eyes and heart.

When we were young, it was understandable that we were in the receiving mode.  During the war, toys were scarce, food was rationed, and coal for heating was in short supply.  It may have been a concern for our parents but for us, Christmas was a magical time.  We wanted realistic-looking rifles and Flexible Flyer sleds.  If we didn’t get them, life went on pretty much unchanged.  If they did arrive, happiness reigned for a few days then we went back to school. For our children and grandchildren today, some of that sense of magic still persists, but not in such a simple way.  Electronics have changed all that and gifts that would have struck the world speechless years ago now find their way even into modestly filled stockings.

In thinking about gifts that we receive, the ones that we most appreciate went to someone else.  Money given to The Good Neighbor Fund, a contribution by a friend given in your name to The Rescue Mission, The Salvation Army, or any number of agencies that help those in need.  My favorite this year, as in many others, has been livestock.  A goat sent to Africa, heifer for Brazil, or four dozen chicks for Haiti.  When those things happen, it takes away a little of the cynicism that has commercially crept into our lives.

So when the packages have been opened, the tinsel taken down, there is still time to send gifts that count to those who need more than we do.  It may make your season jolly and it will surely take the edge off someone’s hard times.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and whatever helps each of us spread a little light and happiness.

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