Life is hard. But, not as hard as it once was.
Technology has made our society as a whole more productive allowing us to produce more with less. The amount of effort required for pure survival has steadily declined over the centuries creating the opportunity for fewer work hours and a more luxurious lifestyle. It all makes sense. In the most exaggerated view think of the caveman and a life of 24/7 struggling for food and shelter. Fast forward to just a few hundred years ago when pilgrims struggled to survive winter and children worked from the time they were able. Later, coal miners worked six or seven days a week in jobs so tough their lifespan was greatly diminished. Most of us have parents or grandparents who grew up in the Great Depression, their stories of sacrifice told again and again.
Every cloud has its silver lining, though. Families pulled together and supported one another if for no other reason than necessity. It seems the holidays meant more in those days and the gifts as well.
Who doesn’t remember classic holiday scenes of old from the movies, like the Cratchit family celebrating Christmas in A Christmas Carol, their joy contrasting with their poverty. There’s also the Walton family (from the TV series, not the billionaires from Arkansas), various Thanksgiving scenes from the pilgrims era or later in history as Norman Rockwell depicted in numerous works of art.
Similarly, gifts were special. When life had such little luxury, gifts meant a lot. In a society where you only have two shirts, there is no “latest fashion” and a gift of a shirt increased your shirt wardrobe by 50 percent. It was a big deal. We all know the challenges of gift giving today. You can either give kids clothes they may not like, or give exactly what they asked for and forego the element of surprise. There is always the generic gift card idea, but do they really get used? A lost or unused card then becomes a gift to a corporation. Often, there is a sense of entitlement that seems counter to the whole idea of gift giving.
An alternative exists, though. I’ve decided to skip the traditional gift giving and, instead, give my family gifts of travel. Now that my children are living independently and can pretty much work for and purchase whatever they wish, I want to give memories and family time.
Recently, my wife and I ran into some good fortune and can afford to take them all on a cruise. This is a luxury they’d be challenged to accomplish on their own and will provide us family time away from the distractions of our modern, normal, home life. Long after they have forgotten who gave what, the memory of that time together on a tropical island will be in their minds as a happy place to go.
It doesn’t need to be anything as pricey as a cruise though. Browse through this issue of Recreation News and see if an idea pops out for you. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving and the beginning of a joyous holiday season.