We had some friends over for dinner last night, and it didn’t take long for our conversation to turn to the woeful state of the economy. We commiserated over the loss in value of our retirement plans and the general uncertainty surrounding recent events. Mature adults have a hard time coming to terms with the possible bankruptcy of General Motors. The turning point in the conversation occurred when one of our friends observed that we were pretty fortunate to be sharing our fears in such luxurious surroundings. We had just finished a meal that would be considered a feast in most parts of the world. Our home is brightly decorated for the holidays, and a good part of our bedroom is stacked with presents for children and grandchildren.
I remember my father describing Christmas during the Great Depression. Gifts, if there were any, were very simple things that were either handmade or cost no money. My dad’s most memorable gift as a young boy was a used jackknife. Hard times depend on where you begin.
Gifts do play an important role during the holidays, and I can remember a number of special ones over the years. One of my favorite memories is my father and an elderly friend playing with my electric slot car set while I impatiently waited to get my turn. The reason that memory means a lot has little to do with the gift, but everything to do with the people who gave it to me. I also recall the first time I had some real money to buy gifts for my family. I took on a paper route for the Ashland Daily Tidings in the mid-1960s, and I was making around $30 a month. My earnings seemed like a small fortune; so I went to a jewelry store to buy presents for my father, mother, and sister. I have forgotten many of the gifts I’ve given in the past few years, but I can describe in great detail the presents I bought for my family in 1966. It says something about my wife that she’s still married to me after receiving a turtle-shaped candle as a Christmas gift a month after our wedding. I think my budget was about $3.
I can’t say that money isn’t important during this season. I think we all strive for and value some measure of economic security even if we do not aspire to great wealth. My friend’s quiet observation last night was a good reminder that while we should be concerned about finances, we should be more concerned about the people who are most important to us and the many blessings they bring.
Please accept my best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous holiday season.