When our family moved to be closer to our aging parents, church, and educational co-op, our old house, which we owned outright through dint of perseverance and strict money management, did not sell. Unable to extract the money we had sunk into that house until it sold, we were forced to carry a mortgage larger than we had anticipated, and I took a second job to make ends meet. This was 2008, and the part-time job I thought might last six months lasted just two weeks shy of six years.
I worked at Sears selling tools. “What do you know about tools?” my future manager asked me. “Nothing!” I replied honestly. “You’ll learn,” she replied. And learn I did. I can now tell a hawk from a handsaw and explain why Sears offers a selection of power drills to boot! Eventually, as the economy worsened, I helped out selling garden and exercise equipment. It was my “fun” job. I was able to help customers by meeting their needs — but more about that in a later blog.
When Christmas time rolled around, I received a surprise. You see, I well remembered my childhood walking during Christmas with my mother through the very store in which I was now working . Like every other store in the late sixties and early seventies, Sears played Christmas carols during the holidays. In fact, even if you liked Christmas music it was so inescapable during that time period that you were in danger of growing tired of it. You might well have said, “If I hear Julie Andrews singing Silent Night one more time, I’m going to scream.”
Well, there’s no danger of screaming now, is there? To my surprise, in the six years I worked at Sears, I never heard one Christmas carol. Not one. I heard Frosty and Rudolph. Santa was constantly in danger of coming to town or landing on my housetop. Grandma was not safe from the reindeer. There was even Christmas in Hawaii. But the angels didn’t hark, the size of Bethlehem wasn’t mentioned, and the night was not silent.
It doesn’t take a genius to know the reason why. As our society has become more secular, stores are happy to capitalize on the giving of gifts that has become a hallmark of the Christmas season, but they are equally unwilling to offend the increasing number of patrons who might have another faith or no faith by inflicting traditional carols on them. And there’s always the ACLU waiting in the wings with hearts several sizes too small to sue on behalf of someone who takes offense.
This year, the popular song seems to be “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, which I heard no fewer than three times in different stores when I was at a local mall. I heard the story of Frosty the snowman twice. And I wasn’t shopping all that long!
So, I ask: if we’re going to put up lights, stars, garland, and do our best to suck the money out of our wallets and purses during the Christmas season, is it too much to ask for an occasional musical acknowledgement of why this all started in the first place?
I think I might even be able to tolerate a reappearance of Julie Andrews and her rendition of Silent Night again.
How about you?