Saturday, December 27, 2008


Here we are, smack in the middle of the holiday season--Christmas behind us, New Year's ahead. Now that we've enjoyed our feasts and family togetherness (the lucky among us, anyway), we traditionally turn our attention to ourselves. Yes, it's time to rev up for the New Year's Resolutions.

I've never been one for these things, though. I am such a perfectionist that I constantly have self-improvement goals buzzing around in my head. Lose weight, of course, and exercise. Keep up with housework. Get on those house maintenance projects. Volunteer more. Cook more, eat out less. I figure, if I want to improve myself, why wait 'til New Year's?

But as it is, we will start seeing articles and stories, studies and editorials about the traditions and origins of resolutions, suggestions for you and for celebrities, serious and satirical. It is fascinating to watch these ideas spread through our common culture. Kind of like the Roomba-riding cat--first you see it on one internet site, then another. Then maybe a reference on the radio, or a headline on a magazine. Then it hits the tv news, and everybody's talking about it.

So now I am thinking of a brief letter to the editor that appeared in the Christmas copy of the Charlotte Observer. It was one that made me say "Yes! Thank you for putting that into print!" I wish it would also spread through the media:

"This time of year the Observer trots out its several urgings and admonitions to get into 'the spirit of the season' and 'do something kind for others.' Just as predictably, after the holidays most readers will return to their settled habits of self-absobed hedonism.

Meanwhile, the houses of worship in our community are active 52 weeks a year in...the lives of the needy... To truly make a difference in the lives of others,get involved in your local church or synagogue." Bob Jack, pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church.

(I would add "or any charity working for the common good.")

It has long bothered me to observe this overwhelming public desire to provide gifts to put under the tree, or elaborate holiday feasts, for people who may not have a tree to start with, or a table to put that 20-lb turkey onto. Then we, as a culture, go on our merry way, trying to avoid eating too much, while never stopping to wonder what happens to those families after all the leftover turkey is gone. Hey, we did our good deed for the year, now let them provide for themselves.

Somehow, that poor single mother of three who is deserving of our sympathy and assistance for the last month of the year, transforms into a single welfare mother living off the dole. The family whose father lost his job may have gotten Barbie dolls and new clothes for Christmas, but when it comes to putting food on the table in February, he should stop sucking up unemployment and get to work.

We can be such a hypocritical society. I think the political arguments over the past year or two have also brought out the worst in us. We "hate" welfare recipients, CEOs, immigrants, the wealthy, unions, and of course, liberals and conservatives. Somehow, at Christmas, we get past all the arguments about who's celebrating what, or not, and create an outpouring of compassion.

My question to you is: are we doing this the other 11 months of the year? Maybe you are, personally. So are you encouraging others? Instead of New Year's resolutions, perhaps we should make monthly goals for the new year. In January, spend two weekends visiting nursing homes. In February, volunteer in a soup kitchen. In March, raise and/or donate money to an international cause. And each month, advertise what you're doing, to raise awareness among your family, friends, coworkers, etc.

Or you could focus on one charity, but still make monthly goals--so many hours a month, or bring in one person a month to spend a few hours volunteering with you.

Sounds pretty ambitious, and today, another gray, drizzly day, I don't have a whole lot of ambition in me. But maybe I'll play around with this idea and see if I don't come up with something that inspires me. I don't have any extra money in my budget, but I do have time. We should all give what we can. For me, this does happen to spring from my Christian upbringing, but everybody should have some sense of reaching out to make our community more whole, just by dint of living in and with human society.

After all, didn't we all learn something about sharing in kindergarten?


  1. As usual you give me plenty to think about - and I just love your style. Yes! Monthly goals are not too much. I was contacted by the Jacksonville City Rescue mission to join their "Advisory Counsil" on the homeless and although I have no idea what that means or what it will entail, I said yes! That's a start... right?

  2. Absolutely! Hopefully it will give you something to write about!

  3. Flartus,
    Good thoughts. I'm finding myself overwhelmed as I haven't really volunteered since we've been back in Chicago - I want to go to the Veteran's Hospital, PAWS or Animal Care and Control, and tutor. Your once a month thing helps keep it organized.

  4. This is definitely something to think about. Great post my friend.

  5. Where are you F? Happy New Year and hurry up and post something.


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