Saturday, December 16, 2006

“We have bigger houses but smaller families:
We have more degrees but less sense;
more knowledge but less judgment;
more experts but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but we have trouble crossing the street
to meet the new neighbor.
We build more computers
to hold more information,
to produce more copies than ever,
but we have less communication.
We have become long on quantity
but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods,
but slow digestion;
tall man, but short character;
steep profits, but shallow relationships.
It is time when there is much in the window
but nothing in the room.”
Dalai Lama

It’s Christmastime. It’s a joyful time for the most part, but it can be a melancholy time too when we reflect on how some happy memories were rooted in loved ones now departed. As the saying goes, “Everyone is trying to find their way back home.” Christmastime is the zenith of this sentiment – we wish hardest around this season to find our way back home with mom preparing a family meal and dad chopping wood in the back yard.

Each season brings its own special note to our life’s sheet music and sometimes the Christmas season delivers a flat note when we anticipate a crisp trumpet blast. There must be a reason that many of us tolerate “Jingle Bells” but have a spot in our hearts for “Silent Night” and “It Came upon the Midnight Clear.” The latter is sometimes especially appealing with its poignant sound though the message be of good cheer.

How many of you stop and pause and ask how you can make Christmas something more like what your grandma and grandpa would recognize? I bet most of us do. We all want the season to be more about family and friends and less about plastic trinkets from China brought to you via Wal-Mart for $6.98.

The quote from the Dalai Lama rings truer today than ever. Sadly, I think it will continue to grow in meaning before an about-face. We are truly, “long on quantity and short on quality.”

I think for me, one of the things that I yearn for more than anything is a return to an industrial America, where quality jobs produced quality goods. Surely, I’m looking for home too as an individual; however, more than that, I’m looking for a country that has common goals for common good; Towns rebuilding themselves with identities that aren’t decided by an advertisement agency but by local traditions and flavors.

Having grown up in St. Charles, it always struck me how curious it was that people moving to St. Charles County had no downtown to identify with. St. Peters, O’Fallon, and Wentzville all had a little speck of a downtown that was quickly rendered meaningless in their great seas of cul-de-sac subdivisions. Malls and strip malls became ersatz downtowns for these communities. There is it seems, “much in the window but nothing in the room.”

Of course, St. Charles City can certainly be criticized for its faults. Sometimes I think our City as a collective is searching for home to an extent that we sometimes have trouble shaking off the slumber of our past to an extent that we just want things to stay the same. I’m as guilty as my fellow townsfolk – I’ll admit it! When expatriated St. Louis County folk crossed the Big Muddy, we circled the wagons and preferred they moved on west lest they disturb our hometown too much. It seems we allowed the desire for no change to prevent us from taking more risks and embracing some things that would have helped our town in the long run.

Still, it is our community among all of our neighbors that is a real town. It is our community that has history, heritage, shops, walking neighborhoods with churches and parks. Our challenge is to embrace a balance of history and change that will keep our town a viable community.

There is no better time of the year to reflect on our past. There is no better time of the year to remember the importance of spring!

I want to close with the first portion of one of the nicest Christmas songs in German and the English translation, “Es ist Ein Ros’ Entsprungen.”

Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen, aus einer Wurzel zart,
Wie uns die Alten sungen, von Jesse kam die Art,
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht mitten im kalten Winter
Wohl zu der halben Nacht.

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Merry Christmas – may you find your way home this winter!