Gustfason: That good old Golden Rule
November 28, 2017
Like many parents, I have begun probing to see what tops the holiday wishlist for my kiddos this season. At an age when the holidays are now often brought to you by Amazon Prime, the Jolly Old Guy must prepare to be a creative genius, which on my budget requires a head start.
During these short, early elementary years, many of our children seem to be reaching the pinnacle of believing in all things magical. Therefore my home often conjures the perfect storm; heightened imaginations, increasingly more expensive tastes and a lingering belief in powerful magic all collide to wreak holiday havoc inside their little bodies throughout December.
Their enthusiasm manifested itself early this year as they perform feats of superhuman strength, including the ability to run up walls and invoke primal behaviors like howling at the moon.
However, despite running about the house like a couple of crazed squirrels, and to my surprise — along with a smirk of anti-consumer contentment — I have found they don't seem to be harboring any desired material objects as their root cause for a holiday-induced trip to nutsville.
In fact, I couldn't really pull anything specific out of them. They don't seem to be dreaming of some fantastic toy or fancy gadget as of yet.
And then, as I was delving deeper into the topic of material yearnings, my daughter looked up at me and said something that really surprised me.
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"Mommy," she said, "I think we just need the Golden Rule. We just need the Golden Rule everywhere and everyone would be happy, that's what I want for Christmas."
I don't know what they are teaching them in school these days, but thank you, Aspen Elementary. Job well done!
My eyes welled up and so did my heart. I had almost forgot about that poignant lesson from my school days.
I like to think that things we do assist in this line of thinking in some small way, but I'm sure it came from other sources, too. For the past four years my kids and I, along with others, have spearheaded a toy drive, collecting gently loved toys, as we call them, from all around town. Our last delivery included driving more than 500 toys from friends and classmates to Denver, where we teamed up with the Santa Claus Shop, an organization that redistributes thousands of gifts to families in need. The efforts encouraged our kids to give and think about the act of giving as a focal point — at least I hoped that was how they viewed it.
Whatever the reason, I'm glad that giving rather than receiving means more, even at a time when receiving seems to be a focal point of our culture as a whole.
As a child, I can remember the thrill of the holidays centering on what to ask for from Santa, and then anticipating and climatically receiving the gift. I can recall my heart thumping while trying to fall asleep, forcing my eyes to close and dreaming of the gifts that I desired. I would awaken with nervous uncertainty only to discover that, "Yes!" apparently I had managed to sneak one or two indiscretions past the Big Jolly Guy once again, and he had still brought gifts instead of the coal I often assumed I probably deserved.
My sisters and I would stumble over each other down the stairs, giddy with anticipation, and the unwrapping would be over before sunrise. Sure, we had our shared moments of sweeping disappointment when the gifts we had been dreaming of were not under the tree. And once, my ungrateful behavior even triggered an instinctive reaction. When opening the gift of a figurine of a hulky, green, pig-boar creature — also known to Star Wars buffs as one of the Gamorrean guards at Jabba the Hutt's entrance — I took one look at it and threw it at the Christmas tree. So when it comes to my own kids, as long as they don't hurl gifts at the tree, they are better behaved than their Mamma.
Our discussion about the Golden Rule sparked a cute, kid-friendly conversation about the reason for the season. We reviewed the fact that it's an opportunity to think about others, peace and harmony, and talked about how Jesus was a great guy, like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and John Lennon who spread ideas about charity, love and compassion. I also reminded them that this is designated by our culture as a time of year to try to remind ourselves about our own humanity.
As I ran through the motions of the holidays last year — decorating the tree, shocking myself with vintage light strands, hauling around dead trees and racing around to different school events and holiday performances — I almost jingled myself all the way to a state of holiday-ho-hum.
But the conversation with my daughter about the Golden Rule, what it means and how honest it is has really reinforced my seasonal spirit.
So we started searching around to find more about the origins of the Golden Rule — which, I too, recall learning in kindergarten. What I found reinvigorated the fragments of optimism that I have been holding on to since Nov. 9, 2016.
Search for yourself and you might discover when you whittle down most major religions to their core, starting as far back as early Confucianism, to Buddhism, Hinduism, up to Judaism, Christianity, Islam and now even New-Ageism, and more, most seem to be rooted in a form of teaching the Golden Rule. Though today it might be an inverted version, in that "You should not do on to others that which you would not want done to you." But more or less, how simple the world could really be, if we just lived by that original nitty gritty concept.
Once you remove dogma, judgment, blind faith, critical thinking and over-analyzing, along with assumptions and prejudices, false advertising and excessive consumerism — so easily said, not so easily done — you can see how clear and uncomplicated things could be, perhaps if kids ruled the world. Although some, like William Golding, would likely disagree.
And when I think back on my own childhood I wonder if I was ever so deep. Didn't I just want stuff? After all I was a child of the '80s and '90s. Still, thinking back on my most cherished holiday memories, they rarely center around the gifts. Now I often find my thoughts circling back to the fact that children really do know so much until we teach them otherwise. If only we could all just do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Let's exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind, after all, if we always agree, what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.