How to Have a Truly Happy Holiday Season

You know, I don’t write this blog for the money. I wish I
could afford to do so; I could be one hell of a journalist if I had the financial
resources. And don’t get me wrong; I appreciate every dollar I receive from the
people who donate, or the scant few dollars I receive from advertisers. Without it, I'm not sure how long I could continue doing this. I would like to receive more, but I refuse to become
a blog whore. You know, the ones whose e-mails you subscribe to, and who then
proceed to send 10-12 e-mails a day, most of them selling stuff. But the bottom
line is, I choose to  write on my own
blog because I believe in what I write, and that we all need to see different
perspectives on things.  

By the way, I give 10-20% of everything I receive in
donations to charities or causes that I believe in.  As cash-poor as I am at the moment (go ahead;
dare to start your own business and you’ll see what I mean), I cannot pass a
Salvation Army kettle without throwing some money into it. I can’t go to
McDonald’s (usually for the coffee) without putting some money into the Ronald
McDonald House tin, and so on. For years, when I worked in Washington, DC,
every time I saw a homeless person begging on the street – and they are plentiful
there – I would make a note of it, and give 50 cents to a local shelter for each
one I saw.  I would literally throw cash
into an envelope and send it to them.

We all live together in this world, folks. None of us is any
better than anyone else; we all need each other to get by. And almost every
single one of us is within a few disastrous decisions or a single tragedy away from
being that homeless person we step over or around as we make our way down the street, or that family who has to hold a fundraiser just to keep their home.

The difference between Donald Trump and those guys who sleep on steam grates
near the Smithsonian is pretty much the luck of the draw. And as our society
becomes more coarse and unthinking as a result of being led by right wingers
for too long, we seem to be forgetting that little reality. If it wasn’t for
the millions of clerks who work for Wal-Mart for rent money, but feed their
kids with food stamps and depend on Medicaid or CHiP for their family’s health
care, the Walton family would not have billions of dollars to play with. If it
wasn’t for the back-breaking hard work of coal miners and oil riggers over the
last couple of centuries, many of the industries we take for granted wouldn’t
exist, either. We need garbage collectors and auto mechanics far more than we
need lawyers, and and we all need doctors and nurses. Even those who are
unemployed and have no money have a role to play in our society, because 100%
employment would create an inflation spiral that could end up destroying our
economy, as wages and compensation skyrocketed beyond control.

Put simply, we all depend on each other as a cog in a very large machine that we call a "society.".  And as bad as you think
you have it sometimes, believe me; there are most likely others who are worse off.
 And we should all help each other.

I think about that sort of thing every holiday season. I’m
one of those unusual folks who has all but stopped buying gifts for the adults
in my life. Instead, I give small donations to charity and toys to Toys for
Tots and Angel Tree. When my son was little, I shot my wad on him every year,
but I also made him shop for someone else, as well, so that he would understand
what the holidays were really all about. No, let me re-phrase that; it was to
show him what living in a society with
other people
is all about.

Regardless of your religious belief, or even if you’re an
atheist, most people appreciate the spirit of the holiday season. I only wish
that corporate whores had been less successful in bastardizing that spirit, and
making people think the season was all about creating an obligation to buy crap
for everyone you're even remotely acquainted with. We have been convinced
that the purpose of the season is to give useless gifts to people, whether they
want them or need them or not, because without that, the economic engine would
fall apart and we'd all be living under highway overpasses. We are treated to apocalyptic visions of a collapsing economy when
December retail sales figures are off a little, and proclamations of economic good
times when December sales tick up. As a veteran of 18 years working in the
trenches in retail stores as a salesman and/or a manager, let me assure you, it’s
all pure crap.

I remember my years working for Thrifty Drug in LA. Every November, we would get shipments of Ronco’s crap products, (does anyone really think you can dehydrate food properly with a light bulb?) and we’d have
to set up an entire end cap of Chia Pets somewhere in the front of the store.
We would carry them for two reasons; we received a huge profit from every sale,
and they were “guaranteed sale” products, which meant that any we didn’t sell were shipped
back to Ronco or Chia for full credit. Of course, we would then get the same
ones back the next year. Basically, the Ronco food dehydrators you see on store shelves right now were probably manufactured in 1995, and just keep cycling through. There were literally dozens of such items. I am here
to tell you; while retailers claim they “depend” on December sales to boost
their fortunes every year so they can stay open and provide jobs, the
fact of the matter is, they would adjust.  Oh sure; a bad December might push a retailer
that sits on the edge of disaster over that edge, but Nordstrom, Saks and Target
won’t go under if they have a few bad Christmases. And I think we can all
agree that society could survive without any piece of crap ever made by Ron Popeil or
clay pots in the shape of a sheep or Popeye with leaves for hair.  And in what universe do we need those huge tins of stale popcorn
that might as well say, “Oh crap! I forgot to buy something for (insert unimportant relative or friend here)!” on the side?

We all like to make jokes about the gifts we give to people
that will be exchanged for something else or thrown in a closet somewhere, but
it really isn’t funny, in reality. Instead of buying someone a piece of Chinese-made
garbage they don’t need, consider giving that amount of money to breast cancer
research, or a charity that feeds and clothes children in third world
countries. Instead of spending way too much on a tie your dad or uncle
will never wear, donate the same amount to a local shelter. If you have no
money, donate a few hours of your time to a battered women’s shelter or a soup
kitchen.  And before you even consider picking
up one of those huge tins of stale popcorn, buy a homeless person a meal.  Instead of paying $50 for a “real” dead tree
every year, buy an artificial one that will be good for 25-30 years, and give
the $50 you save to an environmental organization that will help save even more

The AC adapter for this laptop went up last weekend, and I
was forced to go into Best Buy for a replacement. It was frightening, to say
the least. Customers were stressed out because they had less than a week to buy
that “perfect gift.” Salespeople were stressed out because they had a week to
deal with the stressed-out customers. The Christmas music playing through the
store speakers was “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentleman ,” and I was seeing no one
experiencing anything resembling “rest.” And everyone was “dismayed.” ( Think
of the lyrics; you’ll get it.)

The holiday season should be a time of reflection and
merriment, not a time of stress and strain. I think it’s high time we took back
the holiday from commercial interests, and started doing the right thing with
it. We’re all in this together; be thankful and grateful for what you have and only
give gifts for the right reason; because you truly want to.

Happy Holidays, and thank you for your support.

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