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Thoughts of Christmas…in August

With the Christmas season almost upon us (at least according to retailers, who will soon be peddling Thanksgiving trinkets, quickly followed by shelves stuffed with Christmas gewgaws in anticipation of the aptly-named Black Friday), here is an excerpt of a 1959 letter to Adlai Stevenson (twice the Democratic nominee for president) from John Steinbeck.  It is worth reading and thinking about as you plan your Christmas shopping list:

“Adlai, do you remember two kinds of Christmases? There is one kind in a house where there is little and a present represents not only love but sacrifice. The one single package is opened with a kind of slow wonder, almost reverence. Once I gave my youngest boy, who loves all living things, a dwarf, peach-faced parrot for Christmas. He removed the paper and then retreated a little shyly and looked at the little bird for a long time. And finally he said in a whisper, ‘Now who would have ever thought that I would have a peach-faced parrot?’

“Then there is the other kind of Christmas with presents piled high, the gifts of guilty parents as bribes because they have nothing else to give. The wrappings are ripped off and the presents thrown down and at the end the child says – ‘Is that all?’  Well, it seems to me that America now is like that second kind of Christmas. Having too many THINGS they spend their hours and money on the couch searching for a soul. A strange species we are. We can stand anything God and nature can throw at us save only plenty. If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick.”

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