Have you been naughty or nice?

Have you ever wondered how Santa determines who ends up on the dreaded "naughty list?" I had pondered the thought momentarily while watching endless commercials on TV about the latest toy fads and thinking about the many loud, obnoxious, bratty children who probably shouldn't receive a gosh darn thing this Christmas.

But then it occurred to me. It's precisely this mode of thinking that leaves many people, including myself, fairly disillusioned and disenchanted with this whole notion of "holiday spirit." Just thinking about how hell-bent we are as a society about obtaining the latest in electronic gadgets left me with a very bad impression of Christmas. Unfortunately, our culture has become so materialistic, the true spirit of Christmas is lost in a flood of "I want this and I want that."

As a child, I was already accustomed to not having very much. My family wasn't wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but we did have a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, vehicles to go to and from places with, and most importantly, I had my family. Back then, I guess I had pretty much everything I could ever want.

Now, in the midst of one of the worst economic catastrophes in American history, I find myself wondering, "What the heck happened to our good old-fashioned American values?" As many good, honest and hard-working American families continue to struggle to maintain some semblance of sanity amidst the chaos of the world we now live in, I can't help but wonder if we've become so caught up in technology that we've forgotten what it's like to be human.

It wasn't very long ago that news reports headlined Black Friday shoppers trampling each other to death - literally - just to be the first in line to grab whatever the latest electronic or toy craze might have been. Looking back on that now, I wonder if the people involved in all that madness realize just how asinine their actions truly were.

Those people need to reflect for a moment about the true spirit of Christmas and try to remember those that are less fortunate than we are. While you may not have the most up-to-date cellphone, or the latest trend in fashion, be mindful that there are many others out there who don't have the means or the funds to obtain even the most basic of needs for themselves and their families; needs such as food and shelter that we tend to take for granted because we're too busy whining that the $1,000 computer we have can't upload songs fast enough to your $250 iPod so that you can listen to some tunes while you go out for a ride to the mall wearing your $100 jeans and $350 shoes in your $15,000 vehicle with the $5,000 rims and the $2,000 stereo system to buy a $50 Blu-Ray movie to watch on your $3,000 HD television.

So before getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday season. If you are able to, consider giving to those who are less fortunate than you are. If you have a few dollars left over after Christmas shopping, consider giving that money to a local church or charity. If you have extra food, consider donating it to a local homeless shelter. If you have extra clothing that you no longer wear, or extra blankets, toys and coats/jackets, donate them to someone who can use them.

If you know of someone who will be spending the holidays alone, invite them over to celebrate the holidays. Don't forget about veterans and the elderly who may need a helping hand with hauling wood, or paying for utilities or just to have someone to talk to.

Finally, don't forget about the young men and women of our armed forces who are currently stationed in foreign countries and away from their families this holiday season. Send them a card or care package simply to let them know you are thinking about them and are thankful for their service to our country.

No matter where you come from, always remember to reflect upon what the holidays are truly about so that even if you are Number One on the naughty list and receive a bag full of coal for Christmas, you can still turn around and donate it to someone who needs to keep warm this winter and guarantee a spot on the good list next year.

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