A season is upon us prompted by celebrating the birth of among other things, the idea of “Peace on Earth, Good will Towards Men”. It is a time of giving, when we are to think of others rather than ourselves. For many, it is to celebrate the birth of one who gave everything, even his life for the benefit of all people, even those not yet born. Regardless of how a person might choose to believe, it is uplifting to see folks wanting to see some goodness spread about. And I think many do, including you. Why else would you be reading this?
Yet the most powerful idea we teach the children during this time is to focus on what they want to receive, with little concern for what it might cost someone else who is expected to get it for them. They will have to develop the generous attitude of charity later when they’ve matured, and have become unselfish, helpful, forgiving and benevolent souls, just like all of us adults are, of course. You know that.
At a local shopping mall, extra stock clerks and cashiers have been hired in anticipation of the increased traffic, and security has been “beefed up” considerably. Some people volunteering to collect for a charity are instructed on how to make frequent bank drops to minimize their exposure to being robbed.
The game of the season, especially for the very young, is amplified by the reward or punishment motive. They’re told of an unblinking eye that watches them all year ’round, and knows if they have been “naughty or nice.”
Long before young minds figure out the lie of the generous magical elf myth, they have carved into stone the belief that they have regularly gotten away with lots of stuff all year long. Either the all seeing eye blinked, or for some reason was being a bit lax at times. I often wondered how Kris Kringle had missed some of my obvious blunders, but was always glad he did. I have suspicions that such thoughts are not original on my part.
The doll or the bicycle appears without consideration of the rock thrown at the neighbor’s cat, or of the piece of candy that made its way out of the store without first visiting the cash register. The hateful gesture made while Mother’s back was turned evidently went unnoticed, along with a series of thoughts unfit for open discussion.
Just imagine a “once upon a time” kind of place where a culture of men behaved properly towards each other without supervision. They had no need of policing each other. I’m having trouble finding documentation of it in history books, but maybe some of you might remember it, or live in such a place even now, though I doubt it. As close as it may have come to that were the aboriginal people of North and South America. Conquering Europeans thought it odd that these “natives” were so uncivilized as to have never found a need for prison systems. And with a religious fervency, the conquerers set about to revise this misconception in a most loving way with bullets and swords.
How about you, personally? Do you think your behavior requires that you to be monitored by police or standing armies? Think about your answer carefully. Many of you reading this right now consider yourself a moral person, and that the monitoring is for all the other folks who are not. What if everybody felt that way? What if it was true?
Well, it isn’t. There are those who do not steal from each other because they believe security (the person from whom they’d take, the police, God, Santa Claus, Mama, etc.) is watching, and there are those who won’t because they believe it would not be the right thing to to. Is it what you think you’ve gotten away with that bothers your conscience, is it only that a fear of getting caught would cause such a bother? From what we see by example even in high places, getting caught seems to be the mother of remorse and apology.
If the goodness of your heart is dependent on your compliance to a rule that says you should not get caught doing otherwise, shall I trust you? How about that person who is committed to want to do the right thing whether anybody else is looking or not? Can we always depend on what people tell us motivates them, or is it wise to make an assessment of there actions? If a man behaves honorably, I will trust him to be honorable. If a man tells me he is honorable, I’ll watch him like a hawk. All that being said, for most of my life, I’ve deserved a fair amount of watching. Because of that and not because of anything you’ve done personally that I know of, I tend to keep an eye peeled.
I find it odd that once a year, Ebenezer Scrooge is seen as a man of misplaced values, while the rest of the time, he’s likely to be seen as a role model. Even now, those employed by Mr. Scrooge know that the spirit of giving needs to be strongly reinforced in the minds of the customers, or else Bob Cratchit’s end of the year tally could cost him his job. For Mr. Scrooge, it could be just a matter of how he keeps score. But for Mr. Cratchit, it might be a matter of life and death. If you remember, Tiny Tim was not covered by insurance.