The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

'Tis the Season ...again

I need reminders, now and then, that the dreaded Holiday Season is upon us. This is Florida, after all, and house decorations and lights just don't look Holidayish without the white wet and cold background - but I trade off what I can. It was for this reason, looking for a bit of Christmas spirit, that I settled down with my coffee to read a bunch of letters to Santa that recently appeared in the newspaper of the place to which I will be moving shortly. (Great idea, that - reading what you can about where you expect to be for the rest of your life is a good way to get the sense of the place. Reading the local paper is a great way to do that.)

So I began reading these letters to Santa - presumably written by children who are still at the age of believing. At first I was slightly amused. Amusement drifted into disbelief. Disbelief morphed into appall. There were few who asked for anything for the less fortunate. There were few who even asked at all. The majority of these kids wanted. "I want ... I want ... I want ..." And what they wanted! They wanted PS2s and BIG screen televisions. They wanted game systems and up to fifteen games. Big stuff. I cannot recall a single letter that wanted just one item, either. These kids want it all - and Santa, they want it by Christmas.

I've read that not too many families all sit down to a meal at the same time every day these days. Another consequence of this, aside from lack of table manners (another blog entirely!) is there is no casual family communication. Around the table is the perfect time for the family to get a feel for one another's circumstance, the family's circumstance. No one has told the kids that times are hard, things are tough, and money is tight nearly everywhere this year. No one has told these kids that, with a roof over their heads and food on the table, they are better off than many, many children. No one has reminded them that the upcoming holidays are, in each instance, celebrating something. The birth of Jesus is at the heart of Christmas, after all. Hanukkah celebrates rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem in 165 BC, and the oil lasting 8 days. Kwanzaa, the newest holiday, celebrates African culture and family and community values.

Each family's dinner table, in the old days, is where the kids found out what their family believed. The kids were included in the planning and getting ready for the holiday that family would celebrate. If it had been a bad year (as has this one) it was at the dinner table that the kids learned that Dad got a bonus or Mom got a raise - or was laid off, let go, or downsized out of work; that the house payments were way behind, or that there was no credit left on the credit cards, these things could be discussed openly and honestly. Everyone had a very real sense of what was possible and what was not. Wishes were one thing, wants were another, and needs another still. In these surroundings, children learned they could not have everything they wanted, or sometimes even one thing they dreamed of. (I used to want a pony) They learned what would make the others in the family happy, what would best serve their own holiday best. They grew to value, even cherish, their family's traditions, and they learned empathy, compassion, the art of caring for others.

Not only are people like me annoyed at the selfish and self-absorbed attitude of many kids these days, but the kids - the kids are being cheated.