So last night, I was visited by these three ghosts, see.... Just kidding. This post has to do with the holiday phenomena, and with the spirit of giving.
As the story goes, Ebenezer Scrooge was a miserable man, happy only when walled in behind his money away from other people. The money isn't the important part of the story - its the generosity of spirit that Scrooge lacked, not just fiscal generosity. Ebenezer didn't decorate his place for the holidays; Ebenezer didn't go holiday shopping and buy gifts for his friends and family, no not even on the internet. Ebenezer didn't stock up on spiced cider or make snowmen or even appreciate the smell of fresh-cut evergreen trees waiting to be decorated. Ebenezer didn't even get outside for a quick stroll through a snow-filled park.
Well, consider me a bit of a Scrooge, then. I have not put up a tree, which for a Jew is not surprise, but is actually becoming rarer in this age where even Jewish families put up Christmas decorations. I have not laced my front railings with evergreen boughs, ribbons, and lights. I have not even unboxed the wrapped gifts waiting for me to open on Christmas. (Yeah, I know it's weird - I lit my tiny menorah that only holds birthday candles yet I still wait for Christmas for the gift opening.) While I have been to several parties, they were all, in one way or another, related to work, even if I am good friends with some of my favorite artistic partners. And, certainly, office Christmas parties are important to attend if a freelancer wants to keep getting work; even Ebenezer would see the value in that.
I'm not even traveling this Christmas. I find myself as close to my oft-wished-for ideal of being a hermit as one can get living in the middle of Brooklyn. Yes, I wish I could have seen family this year, but I had to save money for other things. Besides, absence makes the heart grow fonder and bothering my sister only every other year seems like a good balance. I'm hardly even leaving the house. I have no current gigs, so I have plenty of time to prep for some spring work and to catch up on the business of life. I have used the last four days to sort through piles of old medical statements, trying to make sense of them so I can figure out whom to write checks to before the year ends and for how much. This time off has been a blessing; I'm even in a four-day timeout from running; doctor's orders.
In addition, I find myself mildly irritated by all the ho-ho-holiday trappings, particularlly - no, especially - the capitalism. The idea that a good percentage of businesses actually depend on the holiday season to keep their fiscal year in the black just astounds me. The warm and fuzzy image of a rolly-polly white man dressed in a red suit is far from the Kris Kringle of ancient stories, who was a curious mix of Christian saint and gremlin-like elf, if you can grasp that. In many of the oldest illustrations, Kringle is depicted as quite thin and sometimes beardless - much more befitting my mental construct of an old hermit whose only impact on society was to reward good children one night a year by mysteriously leaving gifts behind. No, our current social construct of Santa Claus was created by Coke! More specifically, by artist Haddon Sundblom, working from "An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicholaus". (The Snopes article on the subject specifically denies this claim and shows a timeline from the early 19th century onward, trying to construct a smoothly morphing social-construct of Santa; however, I'll argue that the image kids have in their minds, the one *I* grew up with, the one depicted in 99% of modern illustrations, is the Santa that Sundblom created.)
Obviously, Ebenezer would have LOVED what's going on, but I can't help but look at the billions being spent on absolutely useless crap (Nintendo, I'm looking at you) and think the money could be better spent elsewhere. MY money could be better spent elsewhere. The true spirit of giving isn't embodied by how many toys and trinkets you can foist off on one-another, but by how personally meaningful such gifts are. And maybe the best gifts are those we can make to charity, helping those who really need it.
On January 14th, I'll be running the Houston half-marathon to raise funds for Team Boomer. Team Boomer is a registered USA Track and Field team and the money raised supplies scholarships to athletes with CF. That term is not an oxymoron! I am an athlete with CF, there are hundreds, thousands of us. The scholarships are awarded to high school scholar-athletes in the same tradition as most other athletic scholarships; only you have to have cystic fibrosis to be eligible for Team Boomer's scholarship.
Team Boomer is in the middle of raising enough money to fund 9 or 10 of these scholarships in its first year. I hope that you, reading this blog, will be kind enough to go the upper-right corner of this page and click on the ChipIn widget and make a donation to Team Boomer. You'll be sponsoring my run in Houston and you'll be assured that 100% of the funds raised end up in the scholarship-winners' hands. (Overhead is covered by The Boomer Esiason Foundation.)
I haven't done a lot of participating in the holidays and kept my gift-buying and card-sending to a minimum. In leiu of that, I'm putting my energies into this fund-raising drive. I'm keeping my training up. Incidentally, my sister is also running the race for Team Boomer.
So please, consider the athletes in high schools across the country who, this winter, will be forsaking the X-Box 360s and Nintendo Wiis and going outside to run their butts off on the track, trying to make their health better and putting them in a position to win one of the Team Boomer scholarships. Clicking on the widget will take you to the ChipIn donation page, where you can donate securely via credit card or Paypal. I'll be making the first donation and I hope you'll follow me.