It used to be a clich?round the Tucker house that ?Christmas sneaks up on you.? If only that was still true.
They?ve already hung the giant wreaths outside Union Station in Washington, and if you buy a Coke, it?s likely to come in a special can, complete with a grinning Santa Claus. These days Christmas, or at least the commercialized version, starts popping up even before the jack-o?-lantern has rotted out.
Last year, one radio industry analyst counted some 96 stations that played nothing but Christmas music even before Thanksgiving. Of course, by ?Christmas music? they mean cuts from Elvis? Christmas Album, not Angels We Have Heard On High by the Vienna Boys Choir. (More on that in a future column.) ABC will air ?A Charlie Brown Christmas? on Dec. 7, just a week and a half after it runs ?A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.?
Whew. Hold on here -- yes, it?s the holiday season, but let?s wait until the turkey is digested before we turn our attention to Christmas sales. After all, this year we?ve got plenty to celebrate.
We should remember that, as we all sat down for Thanksgiving dinner four years ago, our political system was in limbo. Courts and legislatures were arguing about which candidate would be the next president. At least this year, whether or not you voted for the winner, we know who will be sworn in on Jan. 20.
That?s proving popular with the public. In a post-election poll, 57 percent told CNN they expect President Bush will unite the country during his next four years. Plus, more than half said they were optimistic or even enthusiastic about the next four years. We?ve survived a bruising and divisive election and are ready to come together -- at least in some fashion.
The economy should also be a source of thankfulness. More than 147 million people are working this year -- a record number. Unemployment is a low 5.5 percent and hourly earnings are going up faster than inflation. America?s economy is the envy of the world, an engine of growth that is driving productivity gains around the globe.
We also can be thankful that the president intends to take on a critical long-term problem: Social Security.
For years, politicians were afraid to touch Social Security, for fear they?d lose their jobs. But in this election, President Bush called for fundamental reform, including allowing individuals to invest in Personal Retirement Accounts they -- not the government -- would control.
If this reform is handled correctly, it will preserve the current system for decades to come, which will protect today?s retirees. It also will allow younger workers -- including many of us who?ve long believed we?d get nothing from Social Security -- to save for retirement.
Finally, we all should be thankful for our troops. Sometimes, you have to fight to make the world a better place, and more than a million Americans on active duty are doing so. Still, all too often the news out of Iraq seems bad. So I recently asked a Staff Sergeant serving in Iraq what he has to be thankful for this year.
?We are thankful for our families and friends that we miss so,? he wrote. ?We are thankful for those who we don?t even know who write us. We are thankful for the ?ordinary people? who help make freedom worth defending. We are thankful for children, all over the world, who remind us that there is hope. We are thankful that even in the poor conditions that we live in that we have food, clothing, and shelter.?
He adds, ?We are thankful that we live in such a great nation and more so, that we have been given the opportunity to defend it. We are thankful for our supporters who see that we have a job to do.?
As a soldier in a war zone, he?s obviously in great danger. But the home front has its threats, too. If you plan to hit the sales on ?Black Friday,? be careful. Last year, a Florida woman was knocked to the ground and trampled by a crowd at a Wal-Mart. Instead of helping, passersby considered whether to take the woman?s $29 DVD player. Happy holidays, indeed.
Oh, by the way, my friend says the soldiers in Iraq ?are in desperate need of pens, pencils, notebooks, paper, school supplies and little candies to hand out to the children,? as well as ?items such as baby wipes and other personal hygiene type items such as shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.? for our troops. Drop me a line if you?d like to send some supplies to him.
This year, our commercial Christmas can wait. First, let?s all take at least a moment this weekend to give thanks for our families, our country, and all the other good things all around us.