OUTSIDE THE BOX: Special Christmas Edition
This column normally publishes on Sundays, but a nasty bout of stomach flu kept me from doing so this week. As a result, I decided to pull the topic I had planned, given that today is Christmas, a holy day for many, and a special day for many others.
Even if Christmas isn’t special to you, it’s still a day to relax and reflect, with nearly everything closed, which almost makes the day a throwback to those quaint days of yore, that were really not so long ago.
In my case, it reminds of growing up in the land of Blue Laws, where stores were forbidden by government fiat to open on a — gasp — Sunday, let alone a major holiday.
It’s good that the government doesn’t dictate like that anymore, but it’s also good that we still have holidays where most everything is closed. It’s like a big snowstorm, but without the snow, where everyone gets out and helps their neighbors and spends time with their families.
And although Christmas isn’t Thanksgiving, with its emphasis on giving thanks, it’s still a day of focusing on the good things that bring us together — which still are things to be thankful for — and not those that divide us. It’s also not a holidays of sadness and remembrance, such as Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day.
In that spirit, I certainly don’t want to be criticizing anyone, or anything, today. There are times for criticism, and none of us are perfect or above it, but there is a time and place for everything.
Instead, today should be focused on the good. Just like when a family comes together, it should be a time to emphasize the ties that bind, not the differences and disputes. That doesn’t always happen, but we could all use a reminder that we should work on it.
And so it is right here in Falls Church City, a blessed place if there ever was one. It’s easy to criticize things, and I do my share of it, but at the same time, we must remember we are fortunate to live here, and that it could be a lot worse.
Most of us recognize we are fortunate to live in America; our problems generally pale in comparison to most of the rest of the world, which is why, despite our many shortcomings, people from across the globe still clamor to come here.
Just walking through the mall at Tysons Corner yesterday, one could see evidence of all the people of various faiths and cultures that have chosen to make this area their home. I found it amusing that a particularly diverse group gathered around the big screen artfully placed right at the entrance to the Microsoft store, where two men were playing a game of video soccer on the company’s latest Xbox console. (And now my son wants one, but that’s another story.)
But we also are fortunate to live in northern Virginia, as prosperous a region as you will find in America, and in contrast to many parts of our country that continue to struggle, either with historical issues or with the fallout from the housing bust and related problems that began in 2007.
And even within northern Virginia, there are pockets of cities and neighborhoods that have challenges, so we are lucky, too, to live in Falls Church City, which is not immune, it should be said, but generally has fewer of these challenges.
While we lament the high cost of housing and of taxes, we have people anxious to live here, bidding on those expensive houses as soon as they are listed for sale — as well as highly regarded schools and a safe community.
Our city government is not perfect, but it is better than many. While we can debate the right amount of money to put aside in a reserve fund, for example, we should be appreciative that officials recognized the danger that resulted when the recession, combined with the losses in the water litigation, reduced that reserve to very low levels.
They recognized it, and they acted. Today, the fund balance is healthy, and that’s a good thing, even if some view it as too healthy. To use the phrase I’ve used previously, that’s a high class problem. It would be great if all of our problems could be high class problems, but perhaps that’s too much to ask.
Wait, that sounds like a criticism. It isn’t; it’s just a recognition that not everything can come up roses. But let’s just ignore that for now, anyway.
On Christmas, let’s just focus on the good.
Outside the Box is an opinion column. Read it every Sunday in the Falls Church Times.
By Stephen Siegel
December 25, 2013