"Every adult or child I give a new set of Crayolas to goes a little funny. The kids smile and pour the crayons out and just look at them. The adults get the most wonderful sheepish smile – a mixture of delight and nostalgia …" – Robert Fulghum
Blurring the line between Thanksgiving and Christmas is that hectic season of shopping, where the bar of expectations is raised far beyond our reach.
Traditionally on Thanksgiving, we take time to behold our many blessings and then look up in a grand chorus of gratitude. Four weeks later, Christmastime humbles us as we honor the birth of the baby king who brought light into a dark world, saving us from ourselves.
This shopping season has become a religion in and of itself. It's a time when crowds of the faithful flood stores, praising with hallelujahs 50, 60 and even 70-percent off.
Store fliers become the new worship folders. The benches in center court or just inside the door serve as church pews. The food court – the new communion rail.
Yes, these sojourners of the faith on their own volition race and relay down aisles seeking holy ground, as they search for just the right gift to place beneath the tree.
What a twisted and strange holy season this is. Store clerks become sacred purveyors of righteousness as they ring up and bag Amazon Kindles, Apple iPad 2s, 3-D LCD/LED televisions, Xbox 360s with Kinect, golf clubs, espresso machines and the like.
Tired and stressed, shoppers wait with headaches, sweaty palms and brows, praying the hundreds of dollars being charged against their credit and debit cards will vindicate and purify their existence.
"Jesus never had a Christmas tree. Jesus never sang Jingle Bells," says Fulghum. "Jesus never sat on Santa Claus' knee. In fact, Jesus didn't know anything about Christmas at all. If he were to suddenly re-appear next week, he would be utterly baffled."
Are we all mixed up about Christmas? Have we been baptized into consumerism and converted by the chorus of retailers who sermonize our wants and the wants of our spouses and partners, our children and relatives, our friends and co-workers.
Some argue that commercialization has ruined this holiday. As I struggle to touch the holiness of this season, I worry that it has.
Why do we look forward to Christmas all year and then can't wait until it's over? Why do we spend so much time and money on gifts and, yes, feel so empty?
"What I really, really, really want for Christmas is just this: I want to be 5 years old again for an hour," Fulghum wishes. "I want to laugh a lot and cry a lot. I want to be rocked to sleep in someone's arms and carried one more time. I know what I really want for Christmas: I want my childhood back." Me, too.
Mother Theresa once said, "We can do no great things; only small things with great love."
Maybe herein is the answer. If each one of us were to remember that we can give no great gifts; only small ones with great love, the true meaning of this holiday season would radiate everywhere.
So this Christmas, why not give everyone on your list nothing more than a day of your undivided attention; a coupon for no negativity, only hope without an expiration date; an hour or more of prayer; a weekend alone without interruption; or a box of crayons offered with great love.
Maybe tuck in a short handwritten note and then watch what happens.
2011 © Copyright Paula Damon.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at firstname.lastname@example.org and find her on FaceBook.