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I’ll Be Home for Thanksgiving

Where we are born, where we are raised, and where we return for Thanksgiving is based on a long-term chain of events that vastly predates our birth

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Years ago, when my mother was still alive and I routinely flew up to Connecticut from Washington DC for Thanksgiving, I had a profound realization during one of my flights. My father had passed away years ago, but my mother carried on the tradition of having the kids assemble at her house for turkey and all the fixings.

My plane ride that morning was actually on Thanksgiving Day, which stood out when I made the reservation as the best and least expensive flight. Surprisingly the cabin was not crowded, I guess because nearly everyone else who travels for the holiday departs a day or two before Thanksgiving. In any case, departing the ‘morning of’ can be a welcome change.

Ruminating in the Clouds

During the flight I became pensive. “I’m flying back to Hartford, Connecticut. Why?” Because that is where my parents settled, after a courtship that started when they first met in New London years back. My mother was from Springfield, Massachusetts and my father was from Hartford, Connecticut. As a family, after living in Hartford for a few years, we moved to Bloomfield, Connecticut.

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On Thanksgiving, among others times, I would land at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, be greeted by my mother, and then make the drive 15 to 18 minutes back to Bloomfield.

What if, I surmised, after meeting in New London, Connecticut my parents settled in, say, Providence, Rhode Island, or Cincinnati, Ohio? What if I’d been born to other parents? (Yes, I understand the intricacies of following that line of thinking.) What if my family was from Decatur, Illinois, or Paducah, Kentucky, or any one of 100s of other places? If so, on this particular morning, I’d be flying to one of those locations. That got me to thinking about the fragility and randomness of life.

A Chain of Events

To whom we are born, where we are born, where we are raised, and where we return for Thanksgiving is based on a long-term chain of events that predates our birth not just by years or decades, but by centuries and more. I was thankful to be flying back to Connecticut to see my mother, brother, and sister and at the same time realized that everyone on the flight, more or less, shared fairly similar circumstances.

We were all flying to Bradley International Airport, but for a quirk of fate, or happenstance, any of us could’ve been flying to Altoona, or Annapolis, or Austin.

Unlike most flights that I take, on that particular journey, at that time in the morning, I felt a kinship with everyone on board. I was thankful for my life, thankful for my family, and thankful for the opportunity and ability to travel to where I choose. What an experience, what a world, what an existence.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



 
 
 

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Family

Contemporary America: A Nation of Bottom Feeders

Have we reached the low point of Western culture and crass commercialism? Regrettably, no.

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Heading into 2023, could one say that society is becoming more genteel? Events of at least the last 20 years, up to the present, indicate otherwise.

In 2004, Janet Jackson’s pre-meditated breast-baring act during the Superbowl half-time show became part of a long line of publicity stunts at the cost of broadcast decency. Her music videos had already bordered on pornography: diverse crowds of young men and women on a dance floor contorting in orgasmic fashion, making gestures that seemingly worship each other’s genitals.

Always on the lewd side, with an audience in the hundreds of millions, on that Superbowl Sunday, she couldn’t resist doing what she does best! However, she was not alone: Two to three decades ago programming standards fell off a cliff.

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The rapper Eminem won three Grammys for his CD the Marshal Mathers LP, which was laced with misogynistic and gay-bashing language. He narrowly missed out on the coveted “best album of the year award.” It gets worst from there.

The television show Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? was quickly scrapped by television executives when it turned out that the first “millionaire” offered to a throng of willing females was not a millionaire at all, had been hit with restraining orders by previous girlfriends and had fudged other aspects of his background.

A photograph depicting Jesus Christ as a nude black woman surrounded by 12 black apostles was put on display at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2001. The museum received an annual subsidy of $7.2 million from New York City. This incident followed the museum’s 1999 “sensation” show that depicted the Virgin Mary smothered in elephant dung.

A Shameful Commentary on Our Society

Enter the hit TV show Survivor. Reduced to its most base elements, contestants win prize money for their success at manipulation and backstabbing. If the human race had developed along these lines, the world population would be less than 1,000, war would be eminent every time people encountered each other, and virtually none of us would be here today.

“Reality-based” television programming could have taken a different turn. People could have been rewarded for being cooperative: The composition of participants could have mirrored that of early bands of human, with a mix of ages and capabilities, seeking to make their way in the wilderness.

Prizes could have been awarded for having everyone in the tribe successfully complete some mission together — people could have been rewarded for being cooperative. Tribe members could have been praised for cross-training one another, for ensuring that no one slips through the cracks, and certainly for not voting people off of an island. Oh, well…

Exploitation for Profit, Pure and Simple

In 2001, NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt died of massive head injuries on the last lap of the Daytona 500. Days after the race, his widow, who shunned publicity was forced to make a statement. Volusia County, Florida was about the release the medical examiner’s autopsy photos of Earnhardt, presumably to fulfill the public’s “right” to view “gore.” The gesture came following an Orlando Sentinel reporter’s public request for the photos.

“This is the first time I have spoken in public since we have lost Dale,” said Teresa Earnhardt reading from a prepared statement. “I am not comfortable being here, but this issue is of vital importance — not just to my family — but to anyone ever faced with being exploited after losing a loved one.”

Along with her son, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., she pleaded for those who feel as “strongly as we do, to let your voices be heard.” In response, the Orlando Sentinel said that they had “no real intention” of publishing the photos. They merely wanted them so that a head trauma expert could make an “independent determination.” Yeah, and fat chance the photos wouldn’t end up spreading like wildfire on the early internet.

Not Yet at the Bottom

In 20+ years, have we reached the low point of Western culture and crass commercialism? Regrettably, no. We’re about to sink lower. The notion that “everything is art,” or that drag queens should indoctrinate school children is ludicrous. Still, we have yet to witness how low American society can go in terms of displaying vulgarity, crudeness, disrespect, and abandonment of reasonable standards, while, in many quarters, having the temerity to call garbage “art,” “newsworthy,” “the public’s right to know,” and “appropriate entertainment.”

With the Left calling the shots, no area of culture is likely to be spared, including politics, religion, science, education, health care, and media. How far are the exploiters of popular culture willing to go in the name of profit or for a warped political agenda? Further than you can imagine.

What more will they do to garner attention, notoriety, and, in this day and age, celebrity? Filmed visits to nudist colonies? Judging the best nude body on the beach? Pornographic sculpture in public display? Rock music videos with staged copulation sequences? Live, televised death in the heat of some extreme sports contest? Some network executives are drooling for it.

A live shooting massacre captured on video as the mayhem unfolds? Reality TV hosts bitterly accosting show participants before banishing them to “off air” land? Coveting interviews with serial killers, unabombers, and masters of mayhem? Child molesters, spouse beaters, and incest perpetrators offering real-time, live Webcasts?

Elsewhere is often no better. An Israeli state television news program broadcasted a home video of a man beating a woman. The attacker, who also allegedly raped the woman, filmed the assault himself. Israel’s Channel One news department defended its decision to air the rape tape. They did so to “help inform viewers about violence against women.” Station management also noted that faces were blocked out for the broadcast. How thoughtful.

Lowbrow Escalated with FCC Deregulation

Deregulation is not a random act of a handful of devious people, it is a major movement. Indeed, deregulation in and of itself is a fine principle in theory. Milton Friedman, in his landmark book Freedom to Choose, eloquently argued that by keeping markets unrestricted, competition would flourish and the ultimate benefit would be the consumer or end-user.

His theory works well for a variety of consumer goods. However, all of American society and, by relation, societies around the world have suffered. When it comes to entertainment, movies, television, the web, CDs, and video games in particular, the lack of effective government controls wreaks havoc on society.

Cornell West, Ph.D. and Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in their classic book The War Against Parents, pointed out that in the early 1980’s the FCC relaxed its standards related to the use of violence, profanity, and adult situations on television. This was all done in the name of opening up broadcast competition. Unfortunately, we got what you see today: wave after wave of communications whose main purpose is to increasingly push the sordid, content envelope.

Powerful media and entertainment moguls use deregulation to exploit the public in many ways, all in the name of profit or a political agenda, and often for both.

Unintended Consequences

A reduction of restrictions on programming and on entertainment content does not result in greater competition, more variety in choices, or, for that matter, higher quality output. The harsh reality has been the opposite. Deregulation, in terms of content, has paved the way for less appealing parts of society to be showcased in the arts and entertainment arena.

Movies are a highly visible example of entertainment that perpetually is strewn with product placements — even to this day regarding cigarettes and alcohol. Often these products are endorsed in movies whose target audience is too young to discern their appropriateness. As such, the movie rating system, while relatively noble in spirit, does nothing to assure a parent of what his or her child will or will not see.

When my daughter was young, I selected movies for her produced before 1970, and certainly before 1960. Considering sex, violence, and language, I knew that I could allow her to watch such films with little supervision and not have to worry. For movies produced after 1980, I felt compelled to sit with her the entire time, to monitor and explain the variety of sights and sounds she was likely to encounter. Movies produced after 1990, and certainly after 2000? Forget about it.

I would sit with my finger on the fast-forward button, ready to shield her relatively innocent eyes and ears from what Hollywood has foisted upon society:

* Violent treatment of one person from another.
* Language that allegedly “spices up” but simply isn’t necessary in a movie.
* Gross distortions of everyday life.
* Glorification of the absurd, the illicit, the illegal, the deviant, or the macabre.

No Way Out

Movies which ostensibly produced for the children’s market border on the lewd. The “penis breath” dialogue in the widely-circulated, original version of ET, under the careful direction of no less than Steven Spielberg, remains, to this day inexcusable. In “R” rated movies, for example, which young teenagers see eventually, the ultra graphic slashing and beheading in Braveheart, (1995 Oscar winner for Best Picture) and the rape and hanging of a mother and child in Gladiator, (2000 Oscar winner for Best Picture) were supposedly high-minded movies.

And today? Television and movies in the 2020s are designed to shock, titillate, and arouse the viewing audience. The writers, directors, and producers of such movies seemingly lack the wit, creativity, and passion to convey horrendous events with anything other than up-close, in-your-face, overly graphic camera sequences that would do the 6 o’clock news camera crew proud.

Shame on them. Shame on us all.

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Faith

The Reason for the Season

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Every Christmas, it’s easy to complain about how commercialized the season has become. Santa seems to reign supreme with fewer and fewer nativity scenes gracing the lawns of neighbors. The news gives us all the bad news we need to feed our discontent. But we don’t always hear of the blessings of the season and the thousands of stories of people finding ways bless others in their midst.

Pastor Andy Stanley, of Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta, has a ministry that extends far beyond the churches that stream his weekly sermons. Many thousands look forward to his messages online. This year, in his first of three Christmas messages on “The Reasons for the Season,” he shared an observation that hit home.

He reminded listeners of a bumper sticker from the past that tried to bring Christ back into Christmas–“Jesus is the reason for the season.” Every saying captures a time but tends to run its course. You don’t see many of those bumper stickers today, but the sentiment remains.

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In his sermon, Andy questioned the validity of the statement. Jesus isn’t the reason for the season. Jesus didn’t come to be honored or adored at Christmas. The real reason for the season, the reason God sent his Son, is for YOU and ME. He came to be a blessing that by believing in Him we might have a personal relationship with God. But it came with mission—through faith we are called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a blessing to others.

Isn’t that what Christmas is really supposed to be about for believers? We take time to remember the greatest Christmas gift of all—God sent his Son to be in our midst and call us to a life of faith and service.

Whenever I get discouraged watching the news, I remind myself that every day the media must search to find new material to grab our attention. Some days, it’s easy to find the catchy headlines to stir our anger and despair. Some days it is thankfully harder. For in reality there’s a lot more goodness and love out there than there is hatred and crime. But the good too often goes under reported.

In this Christmas season, maybe it is time for us to put more focus on some of the blessings that we so easily take for granted. For twenty-one Christmas seasons from 1994 to 2015, I sent out a Christmas ezine “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Starting 12 days before Christmas, I would send an email every day helping to keep Christ in Christmas. I would include a thought-provoking quotation, a mirthful moment of Christmas humor, and a story that captured a Christmas blessing. People not only treasured and shared the email messages, they sent their own stories and content for me to include.

Looking back at the hundreds of past messages, I was touched again by the stories of people blessing others during the Christmas season. I’ve decided that for the next two weeks we could do with a daily story to remind us to do the same.

I have already started posting on Facebook a Christmas story designed to remind us how we too, with our words and actions, can help transform this Christmas season into memories to be treasured. You can follow me on Facebook and like or share my posts. You may even want to take time to share your own favorite memories of people who lived out the Christmas spirit in reply. Let’s let our blessings be a bit more contagious by spreading them around.

To give you an example of the postings you can enjoy let me share a family tradition that you may want to consider using in your family. With inflation hitting our pocket books and our minds struggling to find that perfect gift, here is a gift that finds a way capture the love that often goes unsaid.

Years ago, Angela shared a treasured Christmas family tradition you may want to try: “I am the fourth oldest of nineteen children. We grew up on a farm and didn’t have much money to celebrate a traditional Christmas. Each year we wrapped old shoe boxes in holiday paper and put them under our tree. Each box had a child’s name on it and a slit in the top of the box. During the entire month of December we would take time out each night to write letters to the other siblings. Sometimes we would write poems or funny stories about that person and then place them in their box. On Christmas morning the family would gather. We would read out of the Bible, sing carols, and then open our boxes and read our letters. Now that we are no longer children, and we have lives of our own, it is still the highlight of the season to wake up Christmas morning to find the ‘box from home’ with all of the letters inside. It’s not the material gifts that we look for, it is the gifts from the heart.”

What are the gifts from the heart that you treasure this year? What personal stories from Christmases past could you share to remind others what Christmas truly is about. This Christmas, remember that you are blessed, but even more important, find ways to be a blessing every day.

For now, enjoy your daily dose of Christmas cheer at https://www.facebook.com/terry.paulson and repost it to those you love.

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