I was at a Starbucks yesterday and they had a wreath on their community bulletin board, on which were hung tags with gift requests from needy children. The idea was you take a tag, buy the gift(s), bring it back, and volunteers wrap and deliver it on Santa's behalf.
I looked at some of the requests. Things that probably any American/Westernized kid would ask for given the opportunity to ask. Things they (and their parents, and their aunts and uncles) been successfully conditioned to want. I was about to write "I remember wanting" particular toys for Christmas but that would be a joke, I want things all the time. Getting can temporarily appease the wanting but it always comes back, as if it has a life of its own and has very little to do with the objects supposedly 'wanted.' So there's no past tense about it.
I'm sure that some of my Christmases growing up must have been more spartan than others; but I don't remember ever feeling or noticing that I was having a less-than-fabulous Christmas morning. I don't remember any years in which Santa hadn't obviously unloaded a bounty in our living room. Our Santa always had a practical streak too - our stockings always contained a new toothbrush, socks, and scotch tape along with a can of mandarin oranges, a can of black olives, an orange, an apple, and, of course, candy. They were like mini urban survival kits.
So what does it mean that I felt irritated and judgmental about the fact that the kids on the wreath were asking for 'luxury' items? Electronic gadgets, Wii games, all the related accoutrements? I, who grew up with plenty? I have enough trouble with the conservative attitude "I worked hard for everything I have, so everyone else should too," but the attitude "My parents worked hard to buy my toys and candy, yours should too" is even worse. WTF, Emily? I've read King Lear:
I bet even the mean daughters of Lear would have at least let him keep his Wii gaming system; it's good exercise for the elderly. I'm trying to 'unwrap' my reaction, lest I be turned into a Newt."O reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man's life is cheap as beast's."
Driving home last night I was too fidgety to listen to the jazz that plays on the NPR station after 7:00 p.m. Nor could I hang in with Jimmy Durante singing "Frosty the Snowman" with a kids' chorus for more than three minutes. The glaciers are melting faster than that, for hellsakes. I turned to "92.1 - CLASSIC HITS of the 60s, 70s, and 80s" and there was Mick.
When I'm driving in my car.
When I'm watching my TV.
I can't get no.
Even Mick was not satisfactory. I changed stations to "The EAGLE 96.9, Sacramento's Classic Rock!" - and there was Mick again.
Trailing himself by less than a minute. It's not that this phenomenon is terribly rare, nor is it surprising considering that one company owns most of the radio stations, but come to think of it, when is this song NOT playing in the background, somewhere? It is the multinational anthem.
I don't have the surplus funds to buy someone else's kid an iPod. In fact, I recently gave one away involuntarily when I left one of my truck doors unlocked overnight. But I have no right to condemn the earnest materialism of any American child. With few exceptions we are all convinced that we should have stuff, whether or not it is stuff we need or 'deserve.' We dream, hope, and pray for stuff even if we use St. Nicholas as an intermediary because we are reluctant to flat-out ask the Lord for a Mercedes Benz. O reason not the need.
May I discern my needs from my wants. May I cast the iPad from my own eye before presuming to removing the Nano from my neighbors. May we have a few quiet moments of peaceful enough already this season and share the surplus with someone else. <3