November - December 2002 pavo news graphic A personal perspective
  Ronald E. Peacock Jr. - Editor
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A Christmas Story - by Ron Peacock
By Ron Peacock

   It had been a while since I last ventured forth to the Walden Galleria and I can say that it was not a destination much missed. What drew me there was perhaps a need to dispel or reinforce my observations of social behavior associated with "this time of year". The time of year in question you ask? Our most cherished of holidays, Christmas. Now, the word Christmas conjures up such things as goodwill toward men, peace, caring, joy, reverence, giving, sacrifice, family, God, and a myriad of other frequently tossed about sentiments yet, what we see on a whole, is quite different from the aforementioned affections.

   The trip to the mall was ominous in and of itself. It was a Saturday, approximately 3:00pm. Pedaling east on my bicycle, I approached the intersection of Walden Ave and Harlem Rd. Much to my amazement, traffic was backed up and at a stand still as far as the eye could see heading toward the direction of the mall. My first thoughts were of an accident. I prayed no one was hurt. Carefully I made my way past the stationary vehicles, observing the faces of frustration that pushed past the dashboards in a desperate and vain attempt to coax the traffic forward. Onward I pedaled only to realize there was no accident (relief). This mile and a half of a stationary, winding, metal, exhaust spewing leviathan was the line to the mall entrance. At this point I could not help but wonder how many oil producing, oppressive, fundamental regimes were being supported by this wasteful consumption of fossil fuels (another story, another time).

   In due time, I arrived at my destination. Shaking off the embrace of winters chill, I entered the confines of the mall. I was greeted with the warm sounds of Christmas music emanating from overhead but before my eyes . . . , before my eyes was a scene more reminiscent of an ant farm I once kept as a child. To and fro the mass of humanity hurriedly and frantically shifted. Having no particular destination or chore, I made my way through the bustling crowd. In my quest I searched the faces and listened to the conversations around me. My observation was this - In far, far too many cases, I was confronted with impatience, rudeness, anger, looks and words of despair and grim lifeless faces. There was such aloneness in this meeting of many. Apparently, the only focus was commerce.

   Certainly I saw signs of joy and sincere warmth amongst the throng, but this was the exception not the rule. And the often overlooked and mistreated salespeople and clerks! What a gallant job they did in the wake of much bad behavior. With smiles on their weary faces, they pressed on. Attempting, as hard as it was in some cases, to assist and please even the most obnoxious of customers. A round of applause goes out to them. Now, by this time I, too, am feeling a bit of despair. "Where is the spirit of Christmas?" I looked to the children, for surely I would find it there. I found it in the eyes and wonderment of the very young. A good place to observe this is at Santa's location. The unjaded innocence of youth, it still exists. But . . . Yes, there is a 'but'. As the age of the children increased, so did their resemblance to their adult counterparts. Many, ill mannered at best, loudly proclaimed their want or need of some "can't live without" toy. I wondered if they ever had or ever will know the true meaning of want and need. Alas, my feet and soul grew weary. One more stop.

   During my trek, I had passed a place with some benches for me to rest. Also, there was a man who sat upon a stool, guitar in hand. He was quite good and had a pleasant voice. Next to this gifted caroler was a familiar sight, the donation receptacle of the Salvation Army. I sat in this spot for 45 minutes, watching. What did my wondering eyes see? First I realized what had stuck me a little odd when first I had past this way. In a place where the people where locked shoulder to shoulder in their waltz of want, around this man was a clearing of about 8 feet. As if there was an invisible and impenetrable barrier. I watched as the shoppers approached and passed this man. Once aware of what the gentleman represented, once silent comrades would erupt in spontaneous, absorbing conversation only to fall silent once again as the 'zone of recognition' was passed. Faces were cast to the ground, eyes darted to other corners of the mall and others remained locked in vacuous forward stares. In those 45 minutes, the donation pail was only filed once. And all the time the music all around proclaimed all sorts of virtuous human behavior. I saw very little of it in actual practice. I came away saddened wondering if there is hope for our lost humanity.

   Understand this; I realize I am a bit biased and the mall can only be described as the Sodom and Gomorrah of material greed, but I was disheartened that day. We are bombarded daily in all forms of media. "Show the gift of love this Christmas with (insert product name); Let them know you care this holiday, buy . . . " Excuse my ignorance, I was unaware that love and caring were commodities that could be purchased, cash or charge! I know there are still thoughtful, caring, loving and giving people out there, but the momentum continues to move farther away from such social traits. Therefore, do not condemn me if I distance myself from these things. It's not the spirit of Christmas I reject (not at all), rather, it's the way the celebration is performed and the motivations behind it.

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