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When all is said and done (12/21/2003)
By Janet Lewis Burns
"They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but Mama my intentions were the best." A Randy Travis country song bemoans admirable intentions gone sour. I remember my folks occasionally saying of someone, "But she meant well, poor soul."

Recent blunders have me wondering if I'm having far too many "senior moments." I sent my nephew Jim Stark his usual birthday card, only a month off. (I hope he knew I meant well.) Two weeks late, I remembered my friend Linda's birthday. Good intentions aside, I stooped to bribery to restore our friendship, with the "Maxine" Shoebox card and gift of a granite plaque, engraved with the new millennium's pet advice: "Dance like there's nobody watching." (I bought into a cutesy societal fad.)

Sometimes, though regrettable explanations are often taken for lame excuses, reasons can be justifiable. I failed to recognize that, years back, as I served as a director of religious education at St. Rose in Lewiston. One of my duties was to recruit CCD teachers.

I've often regretted my assuming, haughty attitude as I would challenge individuals with, "how do you know if you've never given it a try?" or patronizing retorts, "we need parental involvement." I realize now, the turndown reasons were likely sincere, as I would no doubt decline, myself, if approached today...for my own personal reasons.

When it comes to holiday gift-giving, it seems today's parents are spending so much more on luxury items and gadgets, brand-name duds, and any and every electronic gizmo the kids beg for, too often spending money they don't have. Berating a child for being a "spoiled brat" is misplaced criticism.

Is this frivolity raising extravagant expectations and a hunger for more stuff? It seems, when the chips are down and the credit cards are all maxed out, as the house is repossessed, and the vacation to Disney World has been permanently canceled, it is then that the light goes on...we have each other...we have friends and community support...we shall survive.

The following story about "Honest Abe" Lincoln, found in "Words To Live By," compiled by Charles Panti, tells how one man chose honor over need:

"At the age of 24 Lincoln was named postmaster of New Salem, at an annual salary of $55.70. Soon the New Salem office closed. For some years no agent from Washington arrived to reclaim the balance of salary - $17 - Lincoln now owed the government.

By the time an agent arrived, Lincoln had begun a fledgling law practice and was struggling to make ends meet. When the agent asked for the unearned pay, Lincoln opened an old trunk, and removed a yellow rag bound with string. Untying the bundle, he handed the agent seventeen dollars.

The agent was dumbfounded to see the original money untouched after all these years, especially since Lincoln was living in poverty.

Lincoln explained, ‘I never use any man's money but my own'."

One hundred years later, credit cards became a passport to having it all!

"My daughter is coming! Will she like her bed, her chair, her mirror, desk and lamp, or will she see only the torn curtains?" - Alice Walker

Recognizing the true gift, which often involves unselfish sacrifice by a loving giver, has been lost in a technological maze and novelty mayhem. When all is said and done, the genuine article will likely become the most cherished of recollections, perhaps years later.

What a pleasant turn of events if cheerful gift-givers would throw away their lengthy lists and draw on sentiment and ingenuity of the heart this holiday season. Let the big chain stores bellyache over lost revenues...little do they know that we can live very nicely without all their trendy and extravagantly packaged "stuff!" Right?

"I'm dreaming of a slight Christmas, with every Christmas card I write. May your gifts by skimpy and light, and may all your relatives be tight."

And we shall not cry over torn curtains; (the decor does not make a loving HOME - people do). Here's to a Yule you'll always remember, for its genuine GIFTS...when all is said and done. 


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