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Handsome devil, ain't he?
J.C. Milliman

Christmas Spirit?

   

    As if I really knew Christmas...

    As you read this, you will, no doubt, be in the last throes of planning those last-minute shopping forays into those bastions of bedlam -- the chain stores, discount marts and (lest we forget) the fancy national chain indoor lumber yards (did I mention they were climate controlled?). You have six shopping days left, whatís the rush?

    And for what do we do this?

    We race about like lemmings in search of a cliff because we care so about our loved ones, thatís why. That and we wish to relieve ourselves of the guilt that comes from receiving a killer gift and having none with which to reciprocate.

    And then thereís those, such as myself, who opt out of the whole sorry mess through the wonderful and therapeutic regimen of rationalization.

    We care so much, you see, we donít lower ourselves to such plebian pursuits as chasing after the same tawdry baubles the masses crave. Oh no.

    How am I doing so far? It gets deeper. And, it helps if you look down your nose, stick your chin waaaaaaay out and talk like Maj. Winchester on M*A*S*H. Try that previous paragraph again. See? Private school wasnít a total waste, Mother!

    Anyway, being the altruists we are we donít wish to subject our friends and loved ones to the same gifts (and the ensuing regifting -- címon! Admit it, you do it too!) over and over and over.

    So, bearing the burden of our noblesse oblige, we instead deign to give of ourselves. Our friendship throughout the year is a truly unique and special gift that anyone would be honored to receive, donít you think?

    Good golly, didnít I say good morning to them (almost) every day? Didnít I leave at least one cup in the pot when visiting the office coffee mess? Didnít I leave a little bit of paper in the printer? And didnít I ... oh never mind. One mustnít brag, you know. Itís so unseemly.

    So imagine my self-righteous indignation when Doris (not her real name) confronted us in the office with a "Giving Tree."

    A Giving Tree, indeed. Donít I give enough of myself throughout the year? That I even lower myself to converse with these people should be grounds enough for sainthood! And now, she thinks I ought to give more? To people I donít even know?

    What could they possibly give me in return?

    My BMW (itís a status symbol you know) needs new seat covers (actually, thatís not all it needs...) and she wants me to take an ornament for some indigent family in need?

    What could they possibly need?

    I have needs. I need a new upgrade for my second computer. I need a better DVD player for the guest bedroom in my summer cottage. I need a replacement car for my BMW (the ashtray is full, you see). And Doris wants me to give to a "needy" family?

    I donít even know these people.

    Just because itís Christmas doesnít mean we have to go overboard getting all sappy. Christmas is good for the economy, for keeping our over-indulged children from whining too much and for padding the travel mile accounts on our credit cards. Where does it say anything about the needy -- Itís about doing unto others so theyíll do unto you, right?

    What about thy neighbor?

    What about him? You have to out give him, right? He gives his kid a Playstation II so you give yours a Segway. Older kids get PT Cruisers or the timeshare in Cancun. Thatís Christmas, man!

    The folks across town who live in the Flat Tops? Oh, theyíre all drug dealers, right? They made their bed so they can live in it. Not my prob, dude. Theyíre not my neighbors because they donít live in my development or neighborhood. I donít need to look after my neighbor, or even know him, because his Bimmer is just as clean as mine is.

    I donít even know my neighbor, you see. Iím far too busy taking care of me and he seems to be doing all right. Charity begins at home, right?

    I have needs of my own and she wants me to buy some tooth brushes? What family doesnít have toothbrushes for its kids? Or coats? Or hats? Surely sheís kidding, right? This must be some ploy.

    But Iím too smart for that trick. Smarter, it seems, than some of my co-workers who are taken in by this. A doll here, a manís jacket there -- it all seems so innocuous, so simple. Even though it amounts to loose change in our cash-flush society, the givers could still just spend that money upon themselves.

    Do without that afternoon Coke from the machine for a week? Egad! And they donít even brag about it! What do they know about Christmas, anyway?

    Something about God giving us His Son to be our King, knowing weíd only nail him to a cross eventually. To wash away our sin. To make us justified. For nothing more in return than our faith in Him that He could make it so. What father in his right mind would do that?

    Smug and secure in my self-sufficiency, Iíve risen above that fray. Iíll spend those 30 pieces of silver on myself, thank you very much.

    Toothbrushes indeed!

    I hurried by Dorisí Giving Tree. I couldnít, for some reason, lift my gaze from the carpet. Not that there was anything of interest down there, but being around that tree, and her, had made me intolerably uncomfortable all of a sudden.

    Merry Christmas.


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