Good Will to Men

christmas_lights_headerWell, it’s that time of year again. That time when, while scurrying around town hunting for bargains, we’re more likely to walk out of a store and be approached by that downtrodden family patriarch that somehow managed to get the invisible car that they all live in, past all of the nearby gas stations, and into the busy department store parking lot just as it ran out of gas on the way to grandma’s house in (insert distant city here), OR that alleged veteran in the parking lot of a grocery store nowhere near a bus station looking for a little “help” getting a bus ticket back to his family for the holidays. Maybe these stories are true. Maybe they’re not. But they are a lot like Chia Pets and electric razor commercials in that they only seem to appear around Christmas time.

Personally, it’s an intuition thing with me, but if the story is good and they’re not rude or aggressive, I’ll usually give anyone a few bucks if I have it. If I don’t have it, I don’t feel guilty saying “no” either. I don’t concern myself worrying about what they end up doing with the money. It’s not my place to judge them. And at least they’re not ringing a fucking bell in my face.

No matter your feelings on the holiday shakedowns, it’s important not to let the grifters out there make us forget about all of those people truly struggling and heading into this holiday season with a drastically more uphill battle into the land of cheer.

While so many are scouring national retail chains and online marketplaces for sparkly holiday trinkets to satisfy some temporary want, many people are searching thrift shops and second-hand stores for those things that they absolutely need as we head into winter. And if they’re lucky, they might even be able to satisfy a holiday wish as well. And then there are so many people with nothing at all whose wish gland dried up years ago and wouldn’t know luck if she walked up and kissed them on the mouth.

goodwillI found myself in the unusual position this year of having a closet full of jeans, shirts, and light coats that no longer fit. I cleaned out my closet in the self-serving desire to get these things out of my way. I gave them to my local Goodwill store because somebody might be able to use them, or maybe even need them. I did it tonight rather than later so that these simple things might still have a chance of brightening the Christmas of someone who is working on a little tighter budget this year than they’d like.

Life can be hard. Sometimes it’s going to kick you right in the chest. I am extremely grateful that during a difficult time I was able to discover a healthy path to what I hope will be a better me. Not everybody is so fortunate. It’s easy to wander down the wrong path when you’re struggling with life’s hurdles, especially when those hurdles started early and can be seen stretching into the horizon. I sympathize with anyone struggling to run life’s roads in those conditions. And while I’m still working my way down my path and I occasionally stumble into some dark places, I know I want to remember that feeling of gratitude for my good fortune and share as much of it as possible this season. It makes me feel better.

In the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and Christmas parties, it’s easy to forget that “Peace on earth, good will to men” isn’t just a Christmas card slogan. And even harder not to immediately disregard the possibility that maybe that guy in the parking lot honestly just needs a little gas money.

Happy Holidays.

ON A SIDE NOTE, if someone out there actually receives a Chia Pet for Christmas, you’d probably get more out of it if, after you grew the magic “hair,” you pulled it off of the pottery and threw it on a salad, or maybe just threw the seeds themselves into some yogurt. Chia seeds are a high fiber “superfood” rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids that among other things has been shown to help control blood sugar, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and possibly prevent cancer. And they’re subtle nutty flavor isn’t bad either.

Chia-Seeds-Bag_400Click here for more information on the health benefits of chia seeds (yes, that picture in the link is actually sunflower seeds), and here for more uses. I haven’t explored too many of those other uses yet, but I put a teaspoon of them in my vitamin and protein shakes every day. I’ve only been adding them for about a month, but I have felt better during runs and workouts. I’m not sure how significant their singular effect has been, but I’m going to keep doing it.

Now, what to do about these cigarettes? Hmmmm.

DISCLAIMER: I have absolutely no idea if the chia seeds that come with that silly pottery gift are of any kind of food-grade quality. Nor am I qualified at all in the nutritional, health, or medical fields. I only know what I read, but I read a lot. And I recommnend people research anything they plan to ingest for the first time. That’s why I provide the links. Enjoy.

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Self Made Fantasy

 

 

By now anyone that pays any attention to what the Presidential candidates are saying has heard about Mitt Romney’s ridiculous assertion that young people should just “take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business.” This advice makes perfect sense to him since, in his fantastical reality, all people are born into families affluent enough to bankroll their kid’s every wish, whim, and dream. But if his chauffeur ever takes a wrong turn into a working class community, he might see some of the people that are working hard every day just to pay their mortgage and feed their kids. He might see that there are hardworking Americans out there that are stretching every dime just to get by. And he might note that very few of them are complaining about it.

 Of course if his chauffeur ever takes the wrong exit into one of those low income/high crime neighborhoods that he’s heard about on television, all he’d see is a reason to fire his chauffeur. He likes doing that.

 Mitt Romney suggesting that young people should just borrow money from their parents is just further proof of his inability to connect to the reality of the American working class. But that disconnect is already so clear that to debate it any further would be like debating the roundness of the earth. Anyone paying attention already knows it, and far too much of the extreme right will deny it despite clear evidence.

 What his statement reminded me of was just how many so called “self-made” men and women truly believe that they did it all on their own. Why doesn’t everybody just borrow 25,000 dollars from their dad, after graduating from prep-school, and start a company like Jimmy John Liautaud did? Clearly the answer is laziness and over-dependence on the nanny state.

 There are too many wealthy people in this country that ignore the benefits of growing up with wealth, security, superior education opportunities, and often inherited business advantage. And judging by some of their attitudes towards the U.S. government, they clearly don’t recognize the sheer advantage of simply being born in America. The established education and infrastructure systems of this country have literally paved the way for accelerated economic growth for generations. Not to mention the overall benefits of living in a consistently safe and secure country.  Having an educated populous provides both a more easily adaptable work force to draw from as well as a motivated and viable consumer base. Our utilities and transportation infrastructures have allowed businesses in this country to focus their energy on their specific field of innovation while taking for granted the means needed to get their product (whether it be information, technology, or manufacturing) distributed across the country and the globe. Throughout U.S. history, our government has provided a pallet for success that is so taken for granted now that these self-made patriots have convinced themselves that they’ve conquered the system and made themselves into the successful people that they are in spite of it and therefore owe nothing in return. And their disrespect of the country has now become a political movement dedicated to denying the government’s past services to society and to cutting it “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

 I wonder how many financially lucrative lobbying firms Grover Norquist would have founded if he had been born in Sudan. I’m guessing none, because he would have spent his teen years trying to survive in a country torn apart by civil war instead of volunteering for the Nixon campaign in this overgrown monster of a government. Luckily he was able to persevere through his Ivy League education (note: this was before a college education was considered an elitist liberal indoctrination), and channel that determined spirit into tax avoidance and the dismantling of the systems that make so much success possible. What a patriot.

 No one is saying that none of the most successful people in America have ever worked hard, or that they necessarily had anything handed to them (though many did). Most of the successful people in this country worked incredibly hard. But the idea that they did it all on their own in spite of the country’s system of government seems to feed into the idea that the lesser successful people in this country just don’t try hard enough and therefore don’t deserve our respect, and certainly not our empathy. Too many of the upper income recipients hold their advantaged success as evidence of the vitality of The American Dream without any recognition or understanding that some people have to fight equally as hard as they did just to avoid starvation and homelessness. The finish line in America is roughly the same for everybody. It’s the starting line that varies so wildly, and for perceived leaders to deny an advantaged starting position is disingenuous at best and deceitful at worst. And to go further after so much success, and attempt to dismantle the system so integral to their own success while ignoring the people still working so hard within it is insulting.

 What is more unsettling to me is the segment of true working class society that has overcome real adversity in order to achieve even a modest level of success, and upon achieving that success joins themselves ideologically with the elite (that will never truly respect them) in their attack on the government structure that allowed them their opportunities. People that studied hard in an underfunded school system in order to get the best education they could to move on to higher education and greater employment, but choose to look back at the others languishing in that same path with disdain instead of understanding. People that took a high-school education and mixed it with years of back breaking work to build a career for themselves and then choose to look at others struggling in the bog of high un-employment just to say “get a job ya bum,” as though it’s really that simple.

 Why do the richest among us automatically get so much respect from the hardest working members of our society, while the poorest among us get inaccurately labeled as non-working leaches of the system? The rich should not be demonized for being successful, any more than the less fortunate should be characterizing as ne’er do wells always looking for a handout, especially with more evidence every year that the richest among us are paying so little back into the system. Is that not a handout? They get all of the enormous financial benefits of living and doing business in this great country but aren’t expected to give anything in return. And save that “job creator” silliness.  I’m not buying it.  Everybody wants the guy with nothing to get “some skin in the game,” but doesn’t seem to mind at all that huge American corporations funnel billions of dollars out of our country every year in order to avoid paying taxes back into the system.

 It’s disrespectful to the country that made their success possible, and the more they want to deny that, and the more they want to dismantle the things that made their success possible while attacking the less fortunate, the more I disrespect them in return. The rich didn’t work harder than everyone else. The rich don’t work harder than everyone else now. And the rich don’t deserve my respect simply because they have a bigger bank account. I don’t measure human value in that denomination.