Letter to the Editor: Christmas is a time of great joy and also a time of great stress


Driving down the main highway of Watertown today, I saw that the traditional sights of Christmas were beginning to emerge. Christmas tree stands advertised trees, wreaths and garland with garish green and red signs reading, “Starting at $9.99!.” The city had put up their modern-looking flags on each lamppost, encouraging drivers to consider Watertown “Home for the Holidays.” The flashing sign at the mall read “Holiday Sales” and tried to tempt cash strapped shoppers to shop the Watertown Mall first. These pleasant and commercial reminders of the upcoming holidays cheered me as I drove, but also reminded me of the hardships many face at Christmas. The bright red $3.29 per gallon signs at the gas station next to the Christmas tree stand reminded me that many will not be able to go “home for the holidays.” The vehicles parked at the pumps ranged from an Escalade SUV to a beaten up looking 1970s Ford truck. The varying vehicles were a picture of the differences living right here in a small Midwestern town. The Mom filling up her oversized tank in the SUV may shake her head at the sixty-five bucks it takes to fill up, but the old man in the beaten up Ford may be wondering if he should get gas or his blood pressure medication this month. As I drove toward home, I noticed another telltale sign of the upcoming holiday season. A Salvation Army poster showed that the group had raised 50 percent of its holiday goal. The sign also asked for volunteers to ring bells at the collection sites. The bell ringers were obviously in short supply this year as I still had not seen one ringing in front of Wal-Mart. On the radio, bids for a pie auction were being called in. A local was auctioning Thanksgiving pies in order to fund a Christmas party with gifts for local children. I was thankful to hear that the pies were going for $50 to $60 each. I hoped these donations would make Christmas a little brighter for some needy children in town. I finally made it home, dragging in my shopping bags filled with wrapping paper, cleaning supplies and a gift for one of the residents at the nursing home where I work. The nursing home asked each staff member to sponsor a resident and buy them a small Christmas gift. The tradition was started last year after staff noticed many residents had no family near or received no Christmas gifts. The home limits the gift to $5 to $10 to make the process more possible for staff members, many of whom can barely afford to heat their own homes this winter. Also, the nursing home had been cutting hours due to federal aid decreases and changes in Medicare reimbursement. Not only would many of the residents have a small Christmas, but most of the staff would be downsizing their own celebrations this year. As I wrapped my gift I had spent way more than $10 on, I reflected on what I had seen today. I am not a cynic about Christmas, but I wish that more Americans could enjoy the holiday without the stress of budgeting and sacrificing. This Christmas would also be another holiday spent without the presence of loved ones for many military families. After wrapping the gift and pondering where I would put it since I had not yet put up the tree, I popped in a Christmas music CD and enjoyed the memories that the music brought back to me. I hope that each American can enjoy the simple pleasures the Christmas holiday brings without sadness or stress. Merry Christmas, America.

Lindsey BarthelGraduate Student