Remember O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi”? It is the story Jim and Della Young, impoverished, young couple. They wanted to buy a special gift for one another to commemorate the holiday. Jim wanted to purchase a set of expensive accessories for his wife’s glorious mane of hair. Della wanted to purchase a platinum chain for Jim’s gold pocket watch, which had belonged to his father and grandfather. Neither had the extra money to purchase the gifts. Della sold her hair to buy the chain, and Jim sold the watch to purchase the combs for his beloved bride.  They each sacrificed their only valuables because their love for one another exceeded their personal desires. The story concludes with the narrator comparing the pair’s mutually sacrificial gifts to that of the Biblical Magi, the Three Wise Men who invented the art of sharing Christmas gifts when they brought gifts to the newborn King of the Jews in the manger. It embodies the true meaning of Christmas: selflessness and giving from the heart.

No matter how one chooses to celebrate the season-Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwanzaa-the theme of the season is giving. When did we lose sight of the real meaning of the holidays? When did it become a competition over cheap deals?  When did “peace on earth” and “good will toward men” give way to stinginess, greed, and violence? There are more tackles, injuries, and altercations than an Alabama-Auburn football game, and police officers are the referees.  Consider the following incidents:

Rialto, California: A deputy suffered a fractured wrist while breaking up a fight between two men who were waiting in line to make purchase at a Wal-Mart store on Thanksgiving night. The store reported three altercations that occurred over Black Friday deals.

Romeoville, Illinois: A police officer was hospitalized with shoulder injuries after being dragged by a shoplifting suspect who was fleeing a Kohl’s department store. A fellow officer was forced to shoot the fleeing suspect.

Escambia County, Florida: On November 22, 2012, a woman is arrested after refusing to leave Wal-Mart after squabble over a cell phone that was on sale.

This year, a boycott of Black Friday was suggested, in protest of the nationwide commercialism that deprives retail associates of time with their families. It wasn’t that long ago that the holiday season from November to January was considered “family time”. Retail stores were closed, allowing their employees to be with their loved ones. People still shopped for gifts, but they were civil about it. A shopping expedition didn’t escalate into a boxing match. Fighting over the merchandise takes all the joy out giving and diminishes its significance.

Of course, working on the holiday is nothing new to law enforcement, and most officers do not complain about it. They accept it as part of the job. They know to focus on the positive. The sales offer extra duty opportunities that enable officers to earn extra money to pay bills and to buy gifts for their own families. Still, most officers would much prefer to spend quality time with their loved ones instead of officiating at the Retail Olympics.

Most importantly, what are teaching our children?  The woman who fought over the cell phone had her small child with her. When people fight and argue over merchandise, they are teaching their children the wrong values as well as modeling bad behavior.  If we really want to teach our children the spirit of Christmas, why not talk to them about servitude and giving back in the same measure as we have been given? Rather than say, “It’s mine. I saw it first!” why not exchange handmade cards and gifts? In addition to spending quality time with our kids, we are teaching creativity and resourcefulness. A personalized gift is more sentimental and is probably much less expensive. Like Della and Jim, it is the gifts from the heart that mean the most.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Let There Be Peace on Earth (And Let It Begin With Me)”. What a different world this would be if we ALL lived by that motto! All it takes is one person to make a difference. Let’s make that our motto at Christmas time and all throughout the New Year.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.

With God as our Father, brothers all are we.

Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now.

With every breath I take, let this be my solemn vow

To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

By Jill Jackson and Sy Miller

Copywright 1958, 1983 ASCAP

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