Monday, December 29, 2008

Reflect and look ahead

When I was writing this, Christmas was still a few days away.
Since my family and friends all agreed to scale back on the “material giving” portion of the holiday, I didn’t experience any of the panic or last-minute “must shop” angst that sometimes hits.
But we at The Reporter again “adopted” a family through Community Housing Services, buying presents for each of the family members, and I also helped out with a child where my daughter works.
If you’ve never participated in an “adoption” program or angel tree, I highly recommend it.
Buying for those who otherwise would have nothing on the holiday, for those who are truly in need, is much more satisfying than combing the stores for some silly little knickknack that most likely will wind up at a yard sale or thrift store.
How many grass-growing pets or singing/dancing Santas can one person use, anyway?
Yes, this holiday season — as many of us hunker down for what may be an even more challenging year ahead, economically speaking — seems to be bringing many people back to what really counts: their faith, their family and friends, helping others.
Facing our own challenges may also help us to think of those for whom the holidays are not a happy time of the year.
Perhaps they have gone through the loss of a loved one this year or are dealing with a major health crisis.
Maybe they’ve already lost their job or know that, unless a miracle occurs, that will be their fate in the new year.
Major expenses may have hit their family’s wallet this year or there may be some other crisis in their lives.
If we think more about reaching out to others, finding comfort in our spiritual beliefs and realizing that being with family and friends all are much more important than how many presents are under the tree, we may find this holiday to be the best we’ve experienced in years.
And I truly hope that people who are convinced that there is some kind of “war” on Christmas will come to their senses.
Just because more people are recognizing the diversity of this country and deciding to say “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” does not mean that the religious aspect of this holiday is in danger.
If they consider that most scholars agree that Jesus was not born in December and that many of the traditions we observe have nothing to do with Christianity, they would realize that no one can destroy what is in a person’s heart and soul simply by what greeting they extend at a store or in passing.
There are so many more important issues we should be concerned with and so much more we should be focusing on than something this silly.
How about following the Golden Rule? How about staying firm in your particular faith and living that faith? How about getting your priorities in order and following through all year long — and not just at Christmas?
By the time you read this, Christmas will have past, many presents will already be exchanged, most of us will have eaten too much and many will be focusing on New Year’s Eve plans.
But I hope you’ll take a few moments to reflect on this year, how you have lived it and how you would like to live in 2009.
Reach out to others. Mend a quarrel. Comfort someone who is hurting. Aid those who are in need. Show your love in word and deed. Live your faith.

Friday, December 26, 2008

No White Christmas

OK, we didn't have a white Christmas ... again. But it's not too late to rent "Holiday Inn" and see the movie where this great song debuted. It's a favorite holiday tradition ... corny, but wonderful.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Spirit of Christmas

If you've lived in the Philadelphia area as long as I have, surely you know "The Spirit of Christmas," that great old show that was sponsored by the telephone company and included "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and "The Greatest Story Ever Told."
The Mabel Beaton marionettes acted out the two stories, and old commercials were included.
You can still catch it on Channel 12 from time to time, and I have an old VHS taped copy.
But a few years ago I stumbled upon it on DVD and had to get it.
We always watched the show at Christmas, and for years had to rely on my old tape. We jokingly called it the "Bell Puppets," since Bell Telephone had been the sponsor.
Now we can just pop in the DVD and enjoy, which we do every year. It's part of our traditions.
So if you remember the "Bell Puppets," I hope you've discovered this DVD too.
It's a great tradition to pass on!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

May we someday enjoy the gift of peace on Earth...
Merry, merry Christmas... all good wishes to everyone, regardless of what you may celebrate.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

cat lovers can relate...

Thought you might enjoy this little video, if you're a cat person, too.
Certainly we can relate!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Helping hand

Too often it's way too easy to simply complain, complain, complain.
And during the holiday season, when we're busy and stressed, that can become even easier.
But I wanted to share a simple gesture that really touched me this week.
I took the day off on Monday, to try to catch up with some work around the house, run some errands and get ready for Christmas.
I was at a local store, my cart was filled with two 25-pound bags of bird seed plus lots of other items, and I was struggling to unload the cart into the back of my car.
Suddenly a voice said, "Here, let me help you with that; it looks heavy."
I turned to see an older gentleman who was lifting one of the bird seed bags out of the cart and into my car.
I was so taken aback, I could hardly say, "Thank you, that's so kind of you."
As he helped with the other items, he said, "Well, if we can't help each other, who will?"
I thanked him again and he said, "Oh, that's all right. Glad to help. And here, let me take your cart back, too. Now you have a happy holiday!"
I wished him a Merry Christmas, and watched as he walked away with the cart. I figured maybe he needed one anyway, but no, he returned the cart and walked into the store.
A small gesture? Not to me.
It made my day.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Shop, shop, shop

I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. I know I did.
My daughter and I traveled “up north” — well, just to Catawissa — to spend the day with my sister and her family.
It was great to be with family and to share the day with some of the “extended branches” that we don’t get to see too often.
We ate too much, laughed a lot and were blessed by great weather and light traffic.
But something bothered me as we drove both there and back.
It was the fact that certain stores were open on Thanksgiving.
These are store where you can shop every day of the week. Being open on a holiday is not because they serve some life-and-death function; it simply means the owners of these retail sites were hoping to make a bit more money.
Now I can appreciate that these are extremely trying times financially.
And I suppose not everyone cares about spending the holiday with family and friends.
But all I could think of was that those people unfortunate enough to work there were being deprived of something special.
And for no good reason.
Having spent my career in the newspaper business, I’ve worked my share of holidays. We’re the kind of business that produces a publication every single day of the year, rain or shine, snow or sleet.
But journalists know that going into this career choice.
And on holidays, we do run with a “skeleton” crew so that the fewest people possible have to be here. We also open it up to “volunteers” first; only after that do we assign.
You know that isn’t the case when you have a huge retail operation open.
It just makes me wonder what in the world people have to have so badly that they would even want to shop on a holiday.
I don’t know how I ever made it growing up. Way back then, everything was closed on every single holiday — and everything was closed on Sundays.
Horrors! How did we ever survive when we couldn’t go to the grocery store or a department store or mega retailer or the mall?
Wait — there were no malls when I was growing up. We were even more deprived!
Yes, somehow people planned their weeks so that the shopping was done Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, basically everyone seemed to be in church, then home for a big lunch, and then either you visited relatives or they visited you.
And holidays were the same.
They were special and everyone seemed to agree that no one — unless they were in a crucial position such as a doctor or police officer or the like — should be spending the holidays anywhere but with loved ones.
It would have been absolutely unheard of to expect someone to have to give up Thanksgiving dinner so that you could buy laundry detergent and paper towels.
Family was far too sacred.
Some may think this is a far too old-fashioned concept; that it’s much better to have the freedom to shop for non-essentials even on Thanksgiving or other holidays.
I disagree. And maybe, just maybe, this financial crisis we are mired in will spur us to realize that things are not what is important in life.
Maybe it will get us to better prioritize our lives.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Greed equals death

When you read the following Associated Press story, ask yourself if you've ever been one of those "over-eager" shoppers who plowed through a crowd to get to a bargain.
Then ask yourself if any THING is worth killing another person for, as in this Wal-Mart tragedy.
I can't imagine anything at a Wal-Mart, or any other store, that would be worth this...

By The Associated Press
Police are reviewing surveillance videos of a post-Thanksgiving shopper stampede that trampled a suburban Wal-Mart worker to death, but they acknowledge it may be difficult to bring criminal charges.

Nassau County police and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said no new information was available Saturday on the employee's brutal death, which rattled shoppers even as they flocked to the Valley Stream store a day later.

"It felt a little freakish," customer Ellie Berhun, 48, told the Daily News. "Some man lost his life because a VCR was on sale? Please. It's just too sad for words."

Police said the temporary worker, Jdimytai Damour, was mowed down as about 2,000 bargain-hunters surged into the store at Friday's 5 a.m. opening, leaving a metal portion of the door frame crumpled like an accordion.

Other workers were knocked to the ground as they tried to rescue Damour, and customers simply stepped over him and kept shopping even as the store announced it was closing because of the death, police and witnesses said.

At least four other people, including a woman eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or treatment for minor injuries. The store, about 20 miles east of Manhattan, closed for several hours but reopened Friday afternoon.

The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday because it has traditionally marked the point when a throng of shoppers pushes stores into profitability for the year.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart said it added staffers and outside security workers and put up barricades to try to prepare for the crush. But police spokesman Detective Lt. Michael Fleming said Friday that security was inadequate for a scene he called "utter chaos."

Criminal charges are possible, but identifying anyone in the store's videos may prove difficult, Fleming said.

Damour, 34, came from a temporary agency and was doing maintenance work at the store, Wal-Mart said.

A woman reported being trampled by overeager customers at a Wal-Mart opening Friday in Farmingdale, about 15 miles east of Valley Stream, Suffolk County police said. She suffered minor injuries but finished shopping before filling the report, police said.

Items on sale at the Valley Stream Wal-Mart included a Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV for $798, a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28, a Samsung 10.2 megapixel digital camera for $69 and DVDs such as "The Incredible Hulk" for $9.