Monthly Archives: December 2011
If someone accused you of being a Christian, would there be any evidence to prove it?
While Tim Tebow has dazzled fans with his performance on the field, he has been made a daily piece of our Breaking News! – as much for his faith as for his increasing status as a sports phenom. He’s almost as hotly debated as politics or religion – oh, but wait, this is a religious thing. Or is it? If only this line were as clear as the fifty-yard line.
Some can’t praise him enough. There’s a lot of “Tebowing,” done “to honor” (read: emulate) the man. Others say he’s annoying. But what, pray tell, is so annoying? Is it the man himself, or rather his actions? He’s doing his job very well, non? What then, is the question?
For many it’s about the role of religion in sports. (Could he be an athletic prophet?) Angry posts online complain that he gets religion “in your face” by praying openly. And the usual media hype, feeding on it like a leach.
Too often the news reports about some player’s recent scandal. Enter Tebow, a dedicated player, a religious man, confident enough about his faith to pray in public, and that simple fact fuels passionate debate around the nation. Websites have come alive with angry comments, name-calling, and a lot of all-cap anger (HE’S CRAZY, A RELIGIOUS NUT!).
Tebow has muttered nary a word about the media hype. He simply doesn’t go there. That’s not what this is about. People can mock or antagonize him if they choose, but he’s not biting that bait. He just carries on, doing his job, giving his best. Those who base their opinion of him on this one aspect miss everything else about him – which is so much more than football and public prayer – and don’t recognize Tebow as the gentleman that he is.
Here, fifteen sides of the man that demonstrate that.
1 – Trend-setter Tebow. Being homeschooled he had to fight for the right to play on his local school team; since then two other states, Alabama and Kentucky, have proposed legislation (“The Tebow Bill”) to do the same.
2 – Philanthropic Tebow – Tim Tebow Foundation. Enough said.
3 – Tebowian conviction – Tebow refuses to be involved in anything that goes against his beliefs. Sorry, Playboy.
4 – Respectful Tebow. He’s done nothing overtly offensive or illegal (you know, like drug trafficking, dog fighting, assaulting girls, or other fare in sports news).
5 – Authentic Tebow – Regardless of the hell he gets, he stays true to his beliefs. This is not a man who hides his faith, embarrassed about who he is. Want to laugh? Go right ahead. Maybe he’ll pray for you.
6 – Positive Tebow. The man simply doesn’t do negativity. Try to provoke him – he still won’t engage.
7 – Well-rounded Tebow. There’s much more to him than his football stats. Faith. Family. Football. Philanthropy. You don’t like one little thing he does – Fuhget about it.
8 – Classy Tebow. When asked that intrusive – and pointless – question in an interview he did not answer with a sarcastic or defensive comeback (like many a publicly-outed virgin undoubtedly have). He answered, without further indulgence. Then, laughing, noted he’d prepared for the question, but they, evidently, had not.
9 – Economy-boosting Tebow: Hello? Jersey and T-shirt sales? A life-size sticker of Tebow doing his thing earned $50,000 and became Fathead’s best-selling product…in two days. His memoir, Through My Eyes, was released on May 31st, the next day reached #22 on Amazon’s Best-Seller list. Do you have your copy?
10 – Helpful Tebow – Saturday Night Live’s ratings will undoubtedly enjoy a spike after last week’s skit. (Maybe he could help the show out a little more often?)
11 – Influential Tebow. He’s in a position to do good and does, using his popularity as a platform to draw attention to his favorite causes.
12 – Humble Tebow. He isn’t arrogant, or cocky about his skill or the rapid rise from his knees to fame. He couldn’t have gotten to his current position without help from others – and, of course, from above – and openly expresses his gratitude.
14 – Rooted Tebow. He remembers where he came from, and goes back, takes his philanthropy there. Tebow started an orphanage in the Philippines, and now is partnering with CURE International to build a children’s hospital there.
15 – Sober, law-abiding Tebow. You don’t hear about him blowing all that money on booze, dope, women and wild parties, do you?
In my last post I wrote about Christmas and the spirit of giving – a spirit that too often seems forgotten, crowded out by consumerism. I felt that I’d said what needed to be said about the contradiction between what we see on “the beginning of the season,” Black Friday, and what the season is supposed to represent, but have since felt that I left something out. What Christmas spirit isn’t is clear, but I want to give some examples now of what I believe it is. In so doing, I hope some of these ideas will strike a chord with some of you out there, and that we will see more of the true spirit of the season.
Do a Google search for “volunteers+Christmas” and you’ll find no less than 85,900,000 results. Seems like a good starting point, non? Following are some of the things you can do on Christmas or around the holidays, as well as some of the causes that have a solid and permanent place in my heart. This, for me, is Christmas. So here you go…
First, two volunteer projects specifically for those who want to give to children: Be an Elf, a project of the USPS, where volunteers read letters to Santa written by children in need, and when you find one (or a few) that move you, take them home, respond, and send it back with gifts: http://beanelf.org/
And Operation Christmas Child, from Samaritan Purse, where you can pack a shoe box with gifts that will go to a needy child overseas. http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/Pack_A_Shoe_Box/
Find a local shelter for families, or for women and children, like Access Shelter, for example, http://www.access-shelter.org/, and call to find out how you can do something for these kids for Christmas (or throughout the year. Why wait until December every year to do something for someone else?). A three year-old boy at the shelter asked, “How will Santa know where I am? How will he find me this year?” At Access you can “Adopt a Family,” (shelters everywhere have similar programs) and bring Christmas to them, since they have no home to go to for the holidays.
Don’t – and I mean, quite seriously do not – go to a pet store to buy a dog or cat for your children. Most of the time these
animals come from puppy mills, and spending your money there is what keeps the *&!#@! losers who run those places in business. Instead, find an animal who has been abused or neglected (sadly, this is not hard to do) and give them a home filled with the love they deserve – the love they have been deprived of far too long.
In fact, I’ll even direct you to one right now: Black Beauty, they call her. And she is a beauty, despite scars all over her body from, they believe, having been either set on fire or burned with acid.
This – and you’d better grab some tissues before you click play on this one – is what you can do for an animal who has been abused, neglected, or raised in a lab as a medical guinea pig:
I cried like a baby when I watched this video, (from ARME (Animal Rescue, Media, and Education) about the Beagle Freedom Project) which is both horribly disturbing and also triumphant. This is giving. It is selflessness. And it is love.
This, is Christmas.
Ah, the holidays. The most wonderful time of the year. Who, in their childhood, didn’t spend the entire month of December brimming over with excitement at the thought of what was to come? The arrival of Christmas meant toys were on the way. Our tree went up right after Thanksgiving, and my two brothers and I spent the days leading up to the 25th the same way many other kids did: poring over every box under the tree, shaking each trying to guess if what we’d wished for was in one of them. Soon we would lie awake half the night hoping to catch Santa Claus, and then, finally, it would be here. A day filled with the sound of wrapping paper tearing and being thrown aside or wadded into a ball, with toys and dolls and matchbox cars and Leggos we had wished for all year long. Then our aunt and grandmother arrived for dinner, but we barely noticed anyone after we’d opened all of our presents (and scarfed down mounds of cookies). Christmas was the day we got stuff. All kinds of cool stuff. People took a back seat. Presents took the front.
But, alas, we all must grow up (though some of us put up fierce resistance).
As we got older the holidays took on a different meaning. Most of us still lived in or around the Akron area, but I had moved away, too far for the occasional drive home. My parents were no longer together, but they always remained close and saw each other regularly. Every Christmas I flew home, stayed with my mom and stepdad, and spent a week seeing the family. My grandmother and aunt still came to Christmas dinner, and my father often joined us too. The holidays were our family reunion. There were gifts, to be sure, but they were more practical now. Useful presents, and, sometimes, the little luxuries we deny ourselves when money is scarce, like the massage my mother knew would help my fibromyalgia. ( 🙂 Thanks Mom!) And we all enjoyed watching my niece’s eyes light up while tearing the wrapping paper off to discover an Easy-Bake Oven inside. Simple pleasures.
But then my niece grew up, the economy went down the toilet, and when, two years ago, we lost Dad just three days before Thanksgiving, our enthusiasm for the season faded, and the decision not to exchange gifts (well, okay, maybe one) seemed natural for all of us. Still, most of us get together over the holidays, have dinner, reminisce, do what families do. Our religious beliefs may not be clearly defined, and some of our ideals differ, but we all believe in family and, particularly since losing my father, we make an effort to put our work or our issues aside and simply take time for each other. Gifts haven’t been the focus since we were young; people moved to the front seat years ago.
Evidently they still rank high for a lot of people though. Too high, even.
A few years ago I was at Lowe’s and was dismayed to see, in mid-September, the first display of Christmas trees and decorations already available for sale. Yep. Mid-September. Wasn’t it enough when radio stations began playing Christmas music in October, forcing the Christmas season on us even before Halloween? A couple local radio stations stop playing anything but Christmas songs on Thanksgiving. This year one of them switched to only Christmas music earlier in the month.
It isn’t Christmas’s fault though. Many stores launch their Halloween campaigns at the beginning of August. Just after New Years Day you’ll find Valentine’s Day cards in any store – even the grocery – and the ads for flowers and candy launch into full bombardment. Spend! Get your gifts now! Flags and other patriotic items show up a couple of months before Independence Day. I wonder how many people give any thought to the freedom the day represents as they put on their new red, white, and blue t-shirts or bathing suits, or get their fireworks ready.
I try to figure out when this phenomena began, this insistence on dishing out dollars for Christmas as soon as possible, don’t even wait until the leaves fall. But I can’t. I only know that I have no recollection of witnessing such crazed consumerism when we grew up. Thanksgiving signaled the holidays were coming; soon we would watch the Heat Miser and Snow Miser on TV and bake cookies with Mom after an afternoon of sled-riding. Despite a few feet of snow on the ground, the season felt warm. Calming, like comfort food. The day after Thanksgiving (as it was previously called) was a day to eat leftovers and relax with family or friends. There weren’t the inevitable stories of violent shoppers on the news. Black Friday? Was that term even used fifteen years ago? Today the words conjure images of people camped out in front of stores for two and three days in tents, heating Thanksgiving dinner on little camping stoves.
‘Twas the season to be jolly. Now ‘tis the season to be the first in line, to beat everyone else to the bargain bin, and to be the one with the most toys.
It is sadly ironic that immediately following the day designated for reflection on all for which we should be grateful, the idea of gratitude is readily abandoned by so many, replaced by a frenzied quest to get, to consume, to take whatever stuff one wants (*George Carlin spoke very effectively about our penchant for acquiring stuff) – no matter what the cost, or who might suffer so that others may gain. On Thanksgiving, 2008, it came upon the midnight clear: it was every man for himself, every year worse than the last. I remember that someone made a horrible joke that year, something about it not being Grandma who got run over by a reindeer, after the first casualty of Black Friday. But there was nothing at all funny about a young man doing his job who, quite literally, fell victim to a herd of individuals oblivious to anything outside of their pursuit of things. When Walmart opened the doors for the mob of eager shoppers that Black Friday, a temporary employee who was trying to control the crowd was knocked to the ground and, literally, trampled to death.
This year several demanded their employees come to work and open the doors to the madness even before midnight on Thanksgiving. Thousands signed a petition asking Target to leave the holiday alone, enough is enough, stop shoving it down our throats, but their efforts were in vain. A cashier and I were recently talking about this while she rang me up. She told me about a friend of hers who works at one of those stores. “They have to go to mandatory stampede training,” she explained.
Tell me, please – where is the holiday spirit in a session of stampede training?
What, on the endless shelves of Walmart, was so incredible that those shoppers deemed it more valuable than the life of the man the stepped on so they could get it first?
“When we were children, we used to think that when we grew up, we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
This year, a “wave of violence” on Black Friday, including a woman who pepper-sprayed some twenty people at Walmart. Elsewhere a man, Walter Vance, became ill while shopping at Target, and collapsed. Not to be deterred from their quest for the best bargain, shoppers continued on, walking around, and even over his collapsed body. That’s what witnesses told police. But wait a minute. If they witnessed this, why didn’t they stop to help?
I read this and, of course, am shaken, disturbed, upset. What were they thinking when they saw a man on the floor, ill, or unconscious? Did they see another human being, in dire need of help? Were they so intent on getting a half-price plasma TV that their eyes and minds hadn’t the time to register anything else, let alone a man in need of immediate medical attention? Or did they see Vance, have a split-second realization of what was happening to him – (only to be called back to their ultimate purpose by the number of frenzied consumers passing them and thus jeopardizing their own chances of being one of the oh-so-lucky few to be able to tell their friends and family that the gifts they just opened were the last few available at such a fabulous discount on the Walmart shelves, and that of the hundreds of others, they were the winners, their determination paid off (in the form of maybe a couple hundred dollar discount) – but tell themselves that somebody else would surely stop and help the sick man lying on the floor. Someone would undoubtedly do something to save him. Somebody else would sacrifice the Wii, the smart phone, the plasma TV, all the other Great Christmas Gifts! for the taking – and attempt to save someone’s life. But not them.
Human nature speaks up in moments like these, saying things like, he’ll be okay, nothing serious is going to happen, nobody’s going to die here tonight, in front of me, because that shit happens to other people. That happens to people I don’t know, when someone who knows what to do is around to do so – not when I’m there.
Maybe they saw what the other tenants in Kitty Genovese’s apartment building saw – a person desperate for help, in danger, someone that they themselves could, in fact help, and someone who would also suffer a horrible death, and die alone, surrounded by a number of people, any single one of whom, even if they knew no way to save a life, could have at least demonstrated concern that extended beyond that of the common gawker – but didn’t. Did they see Vance, then imagine the same thing the others might have: surely someone will stop and help this unconscious man. This. Dying. Man. If nobody else does and he’s still there when I get through this line with my stuff, I’ll stop. I swear. Nothing’s gonna happen in the time it takes to get through this line. But too often when we adopt this wait-and-see strategy, there are consequences. C. Northcote Parkinson wrote that “Delay is the deadliest form of denial.” It certainly was for Vance.
I don’t believe anyone was trampled to death this year, thankfully. But we are continually pushed to shop earlier, spend more, and companies use the notion of “the Christmas spirit” and the “giving season” in order to get. Shoppers show up in droves, something of a mob mentality develops, and the end result is something very far from what the Christmas spirit is supposed to mean.
Christmas Day means something different to everyone, depending on their religious or spiritual beliefs. The holiday season itself though is still when we talk about “the spirit of giving.” So what does that mean? To me it is about giving, and hey, I’m human, I like gifts too – but gifts come in a variety of forms, and not all of them involve wrapping paper and return receipts. To me it means giving your time to someone, even if you don’t particularly think they deserve. And probably especially when you don’t feel like giving it, even if that’s just because you’re busy. It means sharing – not your cash, not your presents, but maybe a little piece of yourself, opening yourself up to others. It means holding the door open for the person coming out of the store with screaming kids in tow and their hands full of bags, and it means stopping to help someone pick up the groceries that just fell out of their bags, even if that person was just bitching and moaning on their cell to someone and didn’t sound like the most pleasant person around. It means calling someone whose calls you’ve meant to return for a long time, while weeks and months slipped by because you were busy (which means I definitely have a few calls to make this month), and giving a long overdue apology. Giving means listening when you don’t feel like it, catching yourself on the verge of judging and making an effort to understand instead. And it means telling people things you always mean to, but don’t. Because we never know when that might make a huge difference to that person.
Were you out there on Black Friday, braving the crowds? How do you feel about the shopping beginning on Thanksgiving? What does the Christmas season really mean to you?