(December 10, 2001)

I’m having a really hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. Usually I haul out the Christmas CDs and decorations the day after Thanksgiving, but this year I just couldn’t. I wasn’t ready. I especially wasn’t ready for Christmas shopping. The ads, the catalogs, the displays in stores I could not avoid were from a different world, a pre-September 11th world. Hadn’t anyone been paying attention? Thousands of people died that day merely because they went to work in a certain building, or boarded a certain airplane, or tried to rescue others. Landmarks collapsed that Tuesday along with the sacrosanct notion that we here in America were safe from foreign attack. As much as I look back on last summer with wistfulness and nostalgia, there’s no going back to that time. I can’t. I won’t. I shouldn’t.

Our lives must change, or we will fail to honor those who died on September 11th. Rampant consumerism isn’t patriotic, it’s irrelevant. What better time than these December holidays to think about what’s really important – life, family, friends, love. Safe journeys. A song. A touch. A new year beginning January 1st, and with it prayers for an end to fear at home and war abroad.

I’m not proposing abandoning gift-giving entirely this year, but I am suggesting we think seriously how to make it appropriate to the world we’re living in today. The immediate impulse of millions after September 11th was to give to those in need, and we all know that giving is good for the giver as well as the receiver. Let’s marry gift-giving to the great American traditions of philanthropy and voluntarism. Yesterday my 16-year-old daughter brought home two cards from the Giving Tree at her high school. She’ll be buying a jacket for a five-year-old and a toy car for a six-year-old – Bay Area children who want and need those items more than I need a new sweater. That’s the spirit.

With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan.