Now we enter the challenging, changing, confusing holiday season.
I delivered Sunday papers from age 12 to 23, never missing a single Sunday, including a couple of blizzard-like mornings when it would have been reasonable to stay inside, out of the weather. I worked with an older cousin, Eddie, whose father, my uncle Ed, had the route for forty years.
In the early days Eddie’s car had a running board—remember those? It was great fun to stand on the running board as he drove from house to house, street to street, and I would reach in, pick the right papers, and run up to the door, take the money where folks left it and put the paper inside the storm door, or in some cases, into the house.
There was the Boston Globe, Post, Herald and American. Some folks bought all four papers, which always puzzled me. I watched the price go up from ten to fifteen cents to a quarter.
The reason the paper route came to mind is that it got very big and heavy in the weeks before Christmas, for obvious reasons. In those days there were no advertising inserts – all the ads were printed inside the newspapers. Now the New York Times is stuffed with dozens of advertising inserts. What a mess.
The holidays are challenging for parents of small children. On the one hand, you want to make them happy, and getting lots of presents under the tree makes them happy, for the moment. On the other hand, you don’t want them to become too materialistic or spoiled – over-indulged.
The holidays are changing because the kids grow up and we try to continue traditions that are out-dated; and we try to re-capture the excitement the little ones bring to the holidays, and we worry that we we’ll fail to live up to one another’s expectations.
The holidays are confusing for the above reasons—because we get uncomfortable with the materialism we see all around us, or is it greed and self-indulgence that gets to us?
Last Sunday we distributed Guest at Your Table boxes for our annual Unitarian Universalist Service Committee’s work. Their work began in the 1930’s with an organized effort to rescue Jews from Germany and Poland. After the war, the UUSC continued in rescue-oriented work, to help feed the hungry, house the homeless.
The UUSC continues to help people who need access to clean water, to respond to disasters, like Katrina, to advance worker’s rights for a living wage, to work for civil liberties and justice, etc. The box is symbolic as well as practical. It’s meant to be placed on the table where you eat – there’s a slot in the top in which to put coins or folded bills at each meal, thus inviting a guest to have a meal from the money collected. There are photographs on the box to show actual recipients of UUSC efforts. On the bottom of the box is a form to put your name to join the UUSC, with memberships ranging from $10 for youth/student, to $75 for two adults. There’s no confusion about our UUSC tradition—the challenge is to get everyone to participate. I hope you will put a box on your table to welcome a guest at each meal. Thank you.