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Volume XVII, Issue 1 - January 1 - January 7, 2009
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The Curmudgeon Turns a New Leaf

Believe me, Old Man Time is no Scrooge


We must carry on — and in doing so we spark a resurgence in life around us.


Life is to be spent not saved.
–D.H. Lawrence


As I write in Northern Anne Arundel County, new calendars are replacing the old. We can’t help but wonder what lies ahead: what each of those pages — with not yet any reminders or notes penned in — will bring.

As always at this time of year, we are at the threshold of the unknown — some barely dare hope that 2009 can bring better than 2008. To find a year with such an abundance of shocks and pitfalls as the one the white-bearded man with the crooked-handled scythe has escorted out, you have to go far back to the late 1920s and early ’30s.

Virtually any how and any where we assess our personal states of the union, we find ourselves worse off than a year ago. Our confidence is shaken if not shattered, our nest eggs are cracked if not gone, unemployment appears headed to historic heights. That’s the case not just here in this great country of ours; with rare exceptions, the trouble is worldwide.

Our world has gone to hell in a handbasket.

Yes, you have to be as old as this writer, who was born when Calvin Coolidge was president, to recall when times were so worrisome, so uncertain, so downright intimidating.

And yet …


The Christmas Test

For most of us, the Grinch did not steal the Christmas of ’08. Therein lies what could be the silver lining in the black and ominous clouds overhead as ’09 arrives. The people of this land would not let it happen. Christmas is Christmas, and regardless of one’s involvement in religion, Christmas­time is a time for giving, for spreading joy, for lifting spirits and hopes — until the arrival of the bright days of spring, when warm sunshine, new growth and change is uplifting.

I’m an old man who lived through the Great Depression. They refer to those of my times as the Greatest Generation. Over the years there have been many bumps in the road: some recessions of varying degrees, wars including the most devastating of all time, personal and family problems. But for those remaining of my generation, we have persevered.

Ingrained within us is a spirit of survival. Whatever it is: This, too, shall pass.

In the eyes of this old man, the spirit of those far younger than I was put to the test at Christmastime. Would the succeeding generations retreat into a hole and ignore the rich tradition of giving, celebrating and living? Or would they carry on somehow confident that better days would return?

I am relieved to report that through these old eyes, the later generations are shaping up as Great Generations in their own right. We old timers have no monopoly.

One instance. I made one of my occasional visits to church the past Sunday, curious of my fellow man’s holiday spirits in times when headlines told of automakers going bankrupt, banks playing Scrooge with loans, a $50 billion dollar Ponzi scheme, some workers facing furloughs and others uncertain about their jobs, millions upon millions losing up to a half or more of their nest eggs — and all with little suggestion of a turnaround in the near future.

Know what? The spirit of the season perseveres. It was like any other Christmas; the gaiety of the youngsters, the warmth of the adults, the voices of the choir and congregation, the Christmas trees. The Grinch was nowhere to be found. This did not apply only to Jenkins Memorial Church in Riviera Beach. By my observations it has been everywhere where people gather, whether at office parties, the mall or the post office.

Life is to be spent, not saved. We are rich in tradition and spirit and not easily cowered. We might think we are doing it for the kids, who look upon this time as the most joyous of the year. And we are, though not entirely for them. For it is also our time of the year. In a way, we enjoy giving as much as the youngsters enjoy receiving. We are not to be deprived of our joy of the season.


The Daily Test

When I got to thinking about that, it dawned on me that this is the spirit that will get us through this economic mess. We have life, and life is to be spent. If we love life, then we cannot waste time, for that is what life is made of. So when we get down to the nitty gritty, we must make the most of this life. We must carry on — and in doing so we spark a resurgence in life around us.

For a time, things may be a bit tough. But if you and I keep our spirits up, it will prove contagious. We will build confidence in our present and future well-being. Others will follow.

After the festivities of Christmas, even an old curmudgeon like this one dares think he can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In reality, Christmastime is only one of many occasions we get to display our gumption. Our lives on this planet are relatively short. But we are blessed by so much that a semblance of optimism is surely in order. This is but a bump in the road of life. We old timers promise you we have witnessed times when things were much worse, then enjoyed times when things were much better.

That’s the way it has always been; surely always will be. Happy New Year.

Enough said.


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