Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Bailout Grinch stole my Consumer Centered, Christless Christmas…..and he can have it!

Two disclaimers on this entry:

(1) I am not an economist… fact, I hated math in HS and took 1 semester of it in college. So I am in no position to diagnose or remedy the current economic situation…..actually, I think that there are like 5 people who could actually do that (HINT: George Bush and Dick Cheney are NOT on that list...)

(2) I am Christian and Christmas is my favorite holiday by a long shot. I believe, unashamedly, in the crucified and resurrected savior, Jesus Christ

Spending Christmas in Eutawville, SC (the kind of small town that politicians allude to in their stump speeches and young people escape the day that they turn 18), the simplicity is almost startling. It is a far cry from my suburban Atlanta life. There are no cell phone towers and many of the roads are not paved. Standing next to the decrepit Christmas tree that my Grandma takes great pains to put up every year, I think of all of the important things that this “economic crisis” has taught us.

One thing separated this Christmas from 21 that came before it (no, not Santa. I never bought that crap). The difference was that there wasn't a single present. Not one. I suppose Christmas played out the very same way in living rooms all over America. I’m really glad.(Don't hate me, I'm not a mean person). But maybe now, like me and my family did, (and were kind of forced to in the absence of gift opening) we can start having conversations about, you know, values and stuff and the real meaning of Christmas. On the flip side, I do, however, find it troubling that Christmas is such a major financial undertaking for most families that it puts houses in risk of foreclose. Hmmmm. This either reflects poorly on our ability to shop within our means, or our perspective on Christmas. Shouldn’t we blaming Christmas (the kind that we buy in the stores, not the Jesus one) for the destruction of itself? It, just like our complete dependence on fragile financial institutions and lean savings accounts, was bound to crumble.

On this whole values tip: Another bone that I have to pick with Christmas is that Christ is always missing. I'm not going off the deep end with this like a religious zealot, but honestly, we marvel at nativity scenes, cover just about everything that we can in lights, buy ugly sweaters and stand in concert sized lines to return gifts, all in the “celebration of Christmas” but perhaps Jesus will get more scorn this year than he bargained for. I mean, just because we tried to take "In God we Trust" off of our money, doesn't mean that he shouldn't have bailed us out this time right? Doesn't the whole story go something like: Born of a virgin birth, placed in a manger, to save bank accounts everywhere??" No? Perhaps then, we should replace this whole "In God We Trust" think with " In the Financial Institutions, Bankers, and Government we Trust"? Wonder why none proposed that in the first place?

So we are in a crisis right? Let’s define crisis by Webster.
a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, esp. for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.
2.a condition of instability or danger, as in social, economic, political, or international affairs, leading to a decisive change.
3.a dramatic emotional or circumstantial upheaval in a person's life.

We are in a crisis. By Webster's definition and by every telling sign in society. We are in a place which has forced us to rest solely on values that we many times, do not posses and have taken no time to asses. By crisis I think some people mean that they have actually had to live within their means, save money and plan for the future…. but aren’t we supposed to be doing that anyway?

In times when the very thing that we put every ounce of our faith in, has left us, we are forced to return to the very things that were supposed to make us strong to begin with. So the economic crisis has striped us of everything but what has made us such a great nation. (tongue in cheek)

My prediction, more prayers will be heard this Christmas than shrieks from the receipt of astronomical gifts that we can't afford anyway. I might be just fine with that. :-) In the absence of gifts, my family, true to being southerners, still ate like it was going out of style, suffered crippling ITIS, ate again, watched movies, and played UNO at nausea and slept. Strangely, no one died. I won't lie and say that it was the best Christmas ever. That would strip this entry of all sorts of authenticity, but it really put everything in perspective.

Sooooo. What did I get for Christmas besides nothing??

I’ve been reading this book (and I am promise that I won’t regularly plug books) that has been like a year long Christmas present to me. It is called “The Impossible May Take a Little While:" A Citizens Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear. It’s a compilation of stories from people famous and not so famous about how they discovered, cultivated and were inspired by hope and the individuals and experiences that captured that elusive feeling. It was not until I began reading this book that I felt that I could adequately describe what I had been given for Christmas.

For Christmas, months before and years to come, I have been given an abundance of humanity. Huh!?! Granted, I began receiving the gift a bit earlier than I had expected, but it took a retrospective look at all of it to truly understand and appreciate it. An abundance of humanity, and described by the author of this particular essay is the ability to feel good, think positively about the world and do good works on the earth simply through the recognition that ordinary humans can make a difference. My work on the Obama campaign gave me this opportunity. To recognize that there was still good and the potential for good left in the world. I realize now, why Christ was sent to earth. It was hope, from God. A sign that humanity was not lost, and could be redeemed. For a few months, working in communities, relying on the hospitality of strangers, taught me that this thing called kindness did still exist and could be replicated. Just like the years prior to the birth of Jesus, the world was a hopeless place and people needed a reason to home. The Obama campaign has done that for the state of the political world.

That realization, that awakening, was what I needed to survive. It didn't put more money in my pocket, it certainly didn't make gifts magically appear under the tree, but it did give me and thousands of organizers and volunteers and voters a bailout of a world of hopelessness and despair and give me a gift that I will give to others as often as possible.

Ya know, it's kinda like that kid, born in a manger to a hopeless world that he would one day save. :-) Merry Christmas to all....and to all a good night!!

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