LIVE LOCAL, LIVE SMALL: REFLECTING ON THE NICE OR NAUGHTY LIST, AND THE WEIGHT OF GLOBAL ISSUES

Dec 16 • FEATURE MAIN, Live Local, NEWS & VIEWSNo Comments on LIVE LOCAL, LIVE SMALL: REFLECTING ON THE NICE OR NAUGHTY LIST, AND THE WEIGHT OF GLOBAL ISSUES

Dear Santa,

How are you?  I hope things are well at The North Pole, though I hear that your neighbors, the polar bears, are having some trouble with rising temperatures and sea levels. I’m sorry to hear that, and I hope that maybe you can help them out for the holidays at least.

Christmas letter

When I saw you downtown, you asked if I had been a good girl this year. I have thought about that question a lot since our visit. That’s not an easy question to answer. I have tried to be a good girl this year, but I have to tell you, as I get older, it gets harder. When I was little, it was really about doing what I was told— which I usually didn’t want to, but I tried. Now, it’s about trying to manage all the things that an adult should and shouldn’t do. Frankly, it’s exhausting. I don’t want to hate the Walton family and Jeff Bezos, but they treat people so terribly, and it makes me so angry. I mean we get some conflicting messages about this while growing up: When we see something wrong—someone being hurt—aren’t we supposed to speak up and intervene? But if the only thing we can change and be responsible for is ourselves, where is collective responsibility? You see? I am not sure what to do, or even what I can do. This is tough, Santa.

I decided to try to look at my actions from the perspectives of the people close to me. First the dogs: Hosanna would probably like to see more of her humans and would prefer mountains of sliced ham instead of having it doled out a piece at a time. But in the balance, she is probably pretty OK. Horace and Hilda would prefer it if I would put an end to Jock’s constant home-improvement projects, but that is just not going to happen. In the balance, they would probably give me a passing grade on the naughty/nice scale—though they would like more walks.

The staff at Old Books on Front Street seem to have settled into accepting that I’m nuts but well-intended. Does anyone ever like their boss? Maybe? I definitely treat them with more respect and consideration than Bezos or the Waltons, but maybe that’s because I have to actually see and talk to the people I employ as people. The employees of the the Waltons rarely or never interact with them—there are layers and layers between the rulers and their peasants at Walmart. I also pay the staff before I pay myself and Jock, which I am sure is a completely different approach than what comes out of Bentonville, AK. They would probably give me a passing “nice” grade most days. However, there are rumblings about the piles of papers on the front desk at the bookstore that I apparently treat as a World Heritage Site instead of trash.

Now the big question: Jock. Would Jock give me a passing grade? I don’t know. He probably wishes that I did more to actively change the world for the better, complained less, had fewer bookstore crises that required his attention, developed a higher opinion of humanity, and had a greater interest in laundry. But he seems pleased with my overall approach to our lives together. I take the home renovations in stride, support all of his inventing ideas, and I am happy to continue to work with him toward a smaller footprint for our household on the planet. At the very core, our values are in allignment. I guess I just wish I were a better person and more deserving of him. He’s pretty generous and optimistic, so he would probably give me a nice rating on the naughty/nice list.

But, Santa, you and I both know that a person is not just how others see them. How they see themselves?  Are they in tune with a deeper truth that has little to do with human perception? My own view of my behavior this year is pretty meh. I haven’t been the best me I could be. There is a lot that has gone on emotionally this year that I haven’t handled as much like a grown-up as I would have liked. As well, in these last few months, I feel  so completely overwhelmed by world events: Syria, Ferguson, NYC, the torture report. I don’t know how a person of conscience can respond to any of that in their daily lives. What actions can I, living in Wilmington, NC, take that would make a difference? Santa, it just makes me want to hide in the garage and work on VWs and ignore the world around me, which I know is wrong. I know I should do better than that. So much of what I write about in the Live Local column is about how the decisions we make as individuals collectively add up to make a difference. But with topics as big as these?  I mean we don’t elect the CIA. Yes, we elect Congress and state legislature members, and we bear a direct line of responsibility for what they do. But this? I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around the events in Ferguson and NYC, much less formulate any way I could make a postitive difference in these situations. I am at a loss.

When we talked, you asked me what I wanted for Chirstmas. I said I wasn’t sure and that, really, I just wanted to come see you. I guess that’s because the things I want seem a little strange to try to tell you face to face, especially when there’s a line of kids waiting to talk to you. It’s hard to explain what I would like for Christmas. I know one of the proudest moments my mother had as a parent was when she asked what I wanted for my birthday, and I told her that everything I really wanted I just had to work for and that what I wanted weren’t “things.” That was almost 15 years ago, and it hasn’t changed. I want to keep the bookstore open and continue to employ some of the most wonderful people I know. This coming year I have a couple side projects related to the bookstore that I want to get off the ground. As well, I really want to move forward as a writer. I’d like to take “Death Bed” to another level, though what that is exactly, I’m not sure. I need to finish my book on the NC outdoor dramas and not let it wither on the vine after I’m finished. I want to make Jock proud of me.

But what do I really want for Christmas? I want to make a difference in the world and find some answers to these troubling questions. I don’t know if you can put that in a stocking for me, Santa. Maybe that’s something us humans just have to work on together. I don’t think funding oligarchs who treat people like we are living in the 14th century is going to solve anything. But I’m not really certain what I can do. Santa, I guess what I want is direction. I know you are going to tell me I have to start with me. I try really hard to live in accordance with my values and to be the change I want to see in the world. But how can I make a difference? 

Santa, maybe I should ask you what you want for Christmas? Maybe seeing the person across from me is the gift you’ve been offering.

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