Christmas Shopping

Merry Christmas from Guy - 1953

Merry Christmas from Guy – 1953

One of the reasons you don’t see me on Facebook contributing or reading much (beyond publicizing this blog) is the number of people who whine and complain daily about political topics. There’s the Tea Party people who are offended because of IRS regulations. The anti-gun people get irritated when the pro-gun people insult them. The anti-abortion crazies get excited when the liberal wackos feel offended. Don’t get me started on the Christians.

One target of the whiners is welfare recipients. Give ’em a drug test, they say. Where do they get off thinking they need a smart phone or Internet access? Get a job already. The anti-welfare complainers irritate me. It’s that irritation that keeps me from reading Facebook posts and, especially, from responding to political diatribes on Facebook.

Why would I be so sensitive?

Because I remember being on the dole. One day in about 1961 a woman came to the house to talk to my mom. This was shortly after we got back from New Mexico, so I was probably ten or eleven years old. My mother was pregnant with her fourth child. She never told me, but I suspect they didn’t plan this pregnancy. The divorce proceedings were in full swing. We were living with Grandma. The nice woman had many questions and I found it all terribly interesting.

Who owned the car in the driveway? Grandma. Whose house is this? Grandma’s. Do you have a job? Yes, part-time at the Tomahawk Bar downtown. (Probably not the place for a pregnant mom.) I learned a lot that day.

This was a family trying to do well, trying to work, getting caught in the complexities of life. There weren’t drugs involved, no getting everything out of the government, no swindle or asset hiding. This was a case of true need, just regular people on welfare. We needed help.

It wasn’t the first time.

Several years before that Louie was off to the Army, perhaps in Korea, perhaps in another enlistment. In those days army grunts didn’t make much money. Christmas was coming and there was no money for gifts. My little brother and I were going to have a quiet holiday.

Someone, possibly the Kiwanis Club, had a program to help “disadvantaged” children. Apparently I was one of them. There were several of us kids that winter evening. A group of men took us downtown to White Drug and Woolworth’s along with a budget and a list. We were to buy gifts for family members. This was one of my first experiences shopping, and the crowds of holiday shoppers, the Christmas lights, and the bracing cold between stores were all new to me. When I see “It’s A Wonderful Life” on television it takes me right back to that evening at Woolworth’s picking out gifts. (And, yes, the memories are in black and white.)

Those were lean years, many years. We depended on the largess of the community and the government. It’s not easy to ask for help. I remember that my mother and grandmother were not very proud of that time in their lives. Fortunately those years of help gave them the foundation to make a success of their lives later on. It wouldn’t have happened without help.

Every time I see a Facebook post denigrating someone in need, or someone a little different, I’m reminded that I, too, am a person in need, and a little different. Those who insult the needy are insulting me.

It doesn’t feel good.
Grandpa Guy Havelick


3 thoughts on “Christmas Shopping

  1. I am 61 years old now, and there is a single Christmas gift I received that stood out above and beyond the rest. I did not go shopping with Guy that year, but do remember being completely floored by the big (seemed giant at the time) Tonka Truck I unwrapped. I was old enough to know that our family was pretty poor, and I know that one of the local clubs had helped out with buying the gifts. I never had any faces to connect with who provided the Tonka Truck, but I knew that somebody out there that I didn’t know helped me get the biggest and best gift I had ever received.

    That has not been the only time in my life I needed the help of others, but it certainly was the most awe-inspiring act of kindness I remember from childhood.

    It seems certain that there was nothing that child 50-some years ago had done, or could have done, that put him into a position of need. There are millions of people in this country that are in positions of need through no fault of their own. Be nice.

    Linn

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