And So It Begins (Or Continues)

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Thanksgiving is over and we now look toward Christmas (although there’ve been Christmas decorations for sale since before Halloween). Remember when it was against the rules to start selling Christmas items until after Thanksgiving? Isn’t that where we got black Friday? Now, some Black Friday sales started weeks ago, which has greatly reduced the size of the lines forming outside stores Thanksgiving night. I remember my boss at my college job telling me he was going to give his kids money at Christmas so they could take advantage of the after Christmas sales! Kids nowadays would have no context to understand the concept of after Christmas sales. Even the much more recent Cyber Monday has faded into irrelevance, the number of packages that show up at my door day after day surely proves that every day is cyber day. Times, they are a “changin”.

There’s a lot of different dynamics at play this year and I think this year will exhibit some new wrinkles and some return to normalcy.  We have high inflation that has shrunk the amount of disposable income available for many of us, yet this is probably the first almost normal Christmas we’ve had for two years, and we want to make it a memorable one. This may be evident in the big reversal in the size of America’s credit card debt. When the pandemic hit the amount of credit card debt held by Americans dropped significantly, probably due to the checks we received in the mail from the government and the fact that we couldn’t go anywhere to spend it. Now the credit card debt is shooting back up as we try to pay for the higher priced basic goods and services we need while we also try to ensure our families have a great “normal” Christmas. It’s a precarious balance that is fraught with worry and is an indication of our greater goal of trying to restore the overall balance in our lives. We are searching for a way to restore some basic faith in our institutions and some hope for the future. I think our votes a few weeks ago revealed our growing weariness with extremes and the negative feelings it seems to foster. We are tired of being impacted by things we can’t control –  it has made us feel helpless.

One of the ways the extremes have affected us is the way we discuss major issues with our friends and relatives. Unfortunately, it seems that lately we have taken our lead from the way politicians are acting these days, who often disrespect their fellow members of Congress, by disrespecting those close to us just because of a political stance. On social media and in our own personal relationships we see the ending of friendships over political issues. One of the few sanctuaries against the outside world is our friends and loved ones. We shouldn’t threaten this comforting retreat over politics. With that in mind I want to share some great advice for how to discuss differences with our friends and relatives during these holiday get-togethers.

I do have to say that I thought I was an expert on discussing differences with loved ones. I’ve grown moderate in my conservative thinking over the years, but I have two brothers who are more extreme in their solutions and a son who leans toward more progressive solutions. Having said that, I found great value in the advice found in this article from Lifehacker.

They list three ways we can have more civil discussions and defuse any disagreements.

  • Be Respectful – As logical as this sounds it seems it has become harder and harder to actually do. Lifehacker points out that it is entirely possible to disagree with someone without being a jerk about it. I’ve found that it is not only the decibel of your statement but also the attitude that indicates whether you are going to be a jerk or not.
  • Agree to Disagree – As soon as it is determined that there may be a large distance between you and your friend’s stance on an issue or its solution, someone needs to state that it is ok to agree to disagree. If nothing else, it lets both parties agree on something. While this statement often results in a stoppage of discussion on this issue, it leaves room for each person to clarify why they feel the way they do.
  • Move on When It’s Time – I’ve found when phrases like, “you must be crazy to believe that” or “you’ve been brainwashed” raise their ugly heads, it’s time to move on. Change the subject or suddenly feel the need for a bathroom break. No good can come from continuing on.

I hope these points give you some ideas on how to enjoy the holidays and avoid some of the negative aspects that tend to creep in.

Now, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t urge you to get vaccinated. I know there has been much said lately about the most recent boosters but here is something that I think is important and I hope you take it to heart. If your health makes you vulnerable in any way, get vaccinated. This virus seems to prey on the less healthy among us, so don’t let your guard down this late in the game.  

We’ve all been through a lot over the last couple of years and I for one have been enjoying the relative normalcy of the last few months. I hope these holidays bring a renewal of faith, hope and charity for all of us.

Best, Thair

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