Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Scrooged Again?

We just observed the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and in its honor (not at all) please enjoy Christmas Light Hero, because nothing says 'let's commemorate the season marking the birth of the Savior of Mankind' better than over the top conspicuous consumption and ostentatious displays of excess. And many of us wonder across these United States, why so many people in other places around the globe don't like us. It is a puzzlement to me as well. 

At one level this, it may be argued, is harmless and "American" in every positive sense of the word. After all, check the wording in our Declaration of Independence, "...endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." F-U-N. Who else lives in a country founded on fun? Anyone? Judging from the footage I've seen of Mardi Gras Rio, maybe Brazil, but that's about it. And admittedly, no one's getting hurt and it's all lighthearted and that's fair enough I suppose. 

I have no idea what a display like this cost in terms of money and material or into the service of how many other uses all of that could have been placed, but I suspect whatever amount, it would have disappeared without a trace into the chasm of need we have on this planet, or just in this country. The (unconditional) War on Poverty declared by then-President Lyndon Baines Johnson began five decades ago. How do you suppose that's going? Perhaps we could ask one of the homeless who shuffle from abandoned threshold to threshold in my downtown, and yours, trying to get a break from the winter wind--or inquire of the poor who sleep on heating grates as people step over them on their way to work every day in every major city in this country. 

I don't pretend to know the intricacies of the most recent census or the truer meanings of the New Testament (the non-Republican Party version at least), so I'm not sure how many unwed, pregnant women we have living in barns across Connecticut or the nation it's a part of, and in many respects it makes no difference. As a culture and a country, I fear, we've not only come to expect the giant government program, we rely on it.

Instead of neighbors helping neighbors in a thousand small ways, we group together to form advisories to draft a plan and organize a feasibility study. We've gone from the preamble of the Constitution, "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity...." to the far more succinct and direct "Greed is Good."

If I'm distressed by anything I've seen or known in my sixty-three years (and counting!) on this Big Blue Marble, it's that we keep having to choose between extremes. There's never any way to lift all the boats. Coming out of the local Stop and Shop stores earlier this week, the ringing of the kettle collector's bell prompted me to offer a dollar bill to a foot soldier in the Salvation Army. This has been another tough year for many of us, but, hand on my heart, a buck is nothing. If each of us gave a buck, how many people could that money help but, before we get too euphoric, how many would remain to be helped? 

Enjoy the success of excess but try to remember, as covered in Santa suits and reindeer poop and Black Fridays and best deals of the year distractions that all of it seems to come with, the reason for the season. 

Others around us may not celebrate Christmas, but their holiday and ours always share so much of the same values that it's hard to believe after all the work we've invested in helping those of us less fortunate that there's still so much yet to be done. So go ahead, double click on the YouTube funny clips about holiday lights-but reach into your pocket today, or one of the very few days remaining before Christmas this Friday, and give of yourself to someone else. Their smile of gratitude will light the world
-bill kenny

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