Christmas not about hype, but happiness

By Jim Lee

We have another Christmas behind us. No more trying to remember Uncle Edgar’s favorite color for new suspenders or if your spouse’s grandma will take out her teeth at Christmas dinner and complain about the mixed nuts. Yesterday ended the panic, running out of tape at the last minute, and braving the store entrance gauntlet of ho-ho-hos, clanging bells, and money buckets.
Fa-la-la-la-la, take down the lights.
I don’t sound like a cynic, do I? Hey, I have enough holiday spirit to wait until after the big day to write this, don’t I? Actually, I really like Christmas. I just don’t like the overkill.
Christmas shopping now compared to my selective memory of childhood is like comparing a Michigan snowball fight to a Himalayan avalanche. Yes, just about everybody cries the blues over the commercialization, but everybody complained about it 50 years ago, too. The difference is the extent.
The hype is more hyper nowadays. The greed is more obvious. The splashy retailer Christmas routine starts screaming at us right after Halloween (or even before) instead of the day after Thanksgiving. Christmas season (i.e. the retail scramble for Christmas dollars) used to be that month or so between the final two traditional family holidays of the year.
I suppose a lot of this is understandable when we step back to take a “snapshot” of how our present culture has evolved over the past few decades. Everything has to be bigger, faster and louder. Just about the only thing to deflate over the years is the eagerness for effort. We seem to have forgotten that ergonomic does not necessarily mean sedentary.
Everything has to come easier and scream louder while we just watch or expend minimal energy on pushbuttons and joysticks. We crave the payoff without the effort. Then we look for quick remedies for obesity, kids developing illnesses typical of the elderly, absence of imagination, lack of involvement and (most of all), the absence of satisfaction that comes from contribution.
Contribution is not simply donating money or services, and even that apparently does not have the appeal it once had. Contribution is what we willingly put into the experiences of life. When we win everything by default, we wonder where the satisfaction went. Well, my friends, fulfillment does not wait at the far end of an electronic cable or lie encoded on a little plastic disk with no soul.
The only acquisitions with meaning are those that result from values exchanged. A true payoff is impossible without a payout. Everything has a price tag in one form or another.
My much-valued friend Don Criss told me, “Creativity is making something out of nothing.” That is a wonderful piece of wisdom and intelligence. What a great example of getting through giving. We have to contribute our imagination to reap the result of creativity.
We should consider when shopping (or even better, creating) Christmas gifts or gifts for other occasions that giving less may be giving more. Instead of some sedentary electronic game requiring more observation than meaningful activity, why not the “cheaper” gift of a soccer ball or box of crayons?
What’s wrong with playing outdoors or creating something on a piece of paper? Which is better: A healthy body and a stimulated mind or gratification without significant effort?
We have one day less than a year to decide how to handle the next Christmas. That should give us enough time to replace “hype” with “happy.”
How about it?

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: