Christmas is nearly here. I'm ready. It has long been my habit
to do my Christmas shopping in October during the Columbus Day
sales. Now I can take all those gifts out of the closet and wrap
them. While among my ribbons and bows, let me unfold a few random
notes for your consideration.
place like home
Last week I watched the movie, The
Wizard of Oz, on television. The main character, Dorothy,
goes on an adventure to reach the Land of Oz. She makes new
friends who help her destroy a wicked witch, but her goal is
always to go back home to Kansas because--"there's no place
I wonder how many
children feel safe at home nowadays. I worry about children
whose parents are addicted to drugs, whose homes were destroyed by
war, or whose families have sold them into slavery. Rather than
to let this reality sicken the spirit of Christmas, I choose to
hope that all children will find a guiding star to lead them to
say, "Howdy partner?"
There is a high school
in Texas that has a large number of students who arrived from New
Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. There was a huge fight between
some of the Texan students and the New Orleans students. Each
side blamed the other for having a bad attitude.
Now, I remember
when Hurricane Katrina struck and many people were displaced.
Students around the country were doing projects to collect money
for the hurricane victims. What happened? Is it better to give
money to distant victims than it is to be a good friend when those
same people are your classmates?
Perhaps it is easier
to give than to share. The Texan students have a big adjustment
to make. They probably feel as though their school was invaded by
outsiders who are taking their resources. The New Orleans
students are still in a process of adjustment. They need a lot of
understanding. The hurricane was not their fault. They have a
right to go to school. All of these teenagers have some difficult
growing up to do before graduation.
The most beautiful Christmas tree I have ever
seen is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (located in New York
City). Every year the Met displays a 20-foot tree in the Medieval
Sculpture Hall. They decorate it with over 200 handmade
18th-century angels. Around the base of the tree, they arrange a
Nativity scene with shepherds, Magi, and animals. To complete
this spiritual environment, they play Christmas music in the
background. It is also a pleasure to observe other visitors,
both adults and children, as they marvel at the tree and smile
with with happiness.
(1) It is so nice to have time to read
novels. I was just at a yard sale where I picked up a copy of
Paradise, by Toni Morrison. The sentences are lengthy for
my taste, but the story is intriguing. It's about trying to
create paradise on earth and, ironically, the evil that ensues in
(2) The current
issue of Scientific American Mind has an article on
"Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth." It puts forth that
self-esteem does not necessarily help students get good grades or
prevent them from getting into trouble.
Before I make a
comment, let me preface that I think low self-esteem is a painful
condition. Even so, I have always thought that high self-esteem
is over-rated (NOT undesirable, but simply over-rated). Most of
us live with certain levels of low self-esteem, insecurity, and
discomfort. We function because we compensate for our
insecurities in other areas where we can excel. Or, we bravely
go forward and do what we have to do despite our feelings of
Occasionally, I have
had patients who say something like, "I'm not comfortable
doing that right now." That means they do not have the
confidence to look for a job, take a college course, talk at an
A.A. meeting, cook a turkey dinner, or learn how to drive; even
though they are very capable. In some cases, my response is
something like, "If you wait until you are completely
confident to learn how to drive, then you may be stuck at the bus
stop for the rest of your life."
Some shopping malls will no longer let
young people on the premises unless accompanied by an adult. This
is because there have been too many occasions of unsupervised
kids stealing, fighting, and smoking and selling marijuana. Why
are parents turning their children loose at the malls? My guess
is that the malls are being used as a babysitting service. Some
parents use Sunday Schools in the same way. They drop off their
kids at the church, then run some errands, and later come back
and pick up the kids. Sales people, security guards, and Sunday
School teachers are not free nannys.
Parents need to
include their children in weekend activities. Assign chores to do.
Teach responsibility and family teamwork. If they get bored, why
not encourage them to read a book or start a game of basketball?
Have they finished their homework? Routinely giving them money
and sending them to the mall results in aimless behavior. These
children will lose respect for adults and this attitude will also
be reflected in the classroom.
Crime in the
Why do journalists and television news
reporters focus on stories of crime, accidents, disasters, and
war? Why isn't good news reported as frequently? Does the public
really need to hear about EVERY earthquake, train wreck, and
murder? Does this not give a distorted view of the world? Can
any human possibly absorb all the horrors of the entire world?
Along with freedom
of the press, there should be a rule* to report an equal number
(not just the occasional segment) of stories that affirm life.
What are the good things that are happening? Who are the people
who are making life better? Where can we find beauty, knowledge,
love, friendship, achievement, fun, art, music, tranquility?
Although I want to
be an informed citizen, I also want my living room to be a refuge
from the harsh world. The television news channels are available
24 hours a day. Sometimes I have to be selective in my viewing,
or just turn the television off.
This my dilemma: I like to save things,
but I dislike clutter. If you have ever lived on a limited
income, then you know that saving things is a means to survival.
But it can go too far. Things become junk. You have to sort
through it and decide what is no longer re-usable. Okay, I
admit it: I saved last year's Christmas wrapping paper. After
this Christmas, it definitely has to be dumped. But maybe I could
still save the bows. (Written 12/19/05)
[*ADDED NOTE: The
word rule was used loosely and was not intended to suggest
censorship. It was meant to suggest a more balanced or realistic
reporting of events, or a better definition of what is newsworthy
and how this has an impact on the average person's worldview.
Let it also be noted that the author does NOT support the
Fairness Doctrine or any enforcement that artificially divides
news or commentary into so-called fair proportions of political
Until we meet