• Finding the Perfect Gift

    • Posted on Dec 25, 2016
    Christmas Day column in the Courier--fun for one and all, at least toward the end.

    Every year we give and get gifts large and small, expensive and simple, heartfelt and routine.  Every year we give or get only one or two—if we’re lucky—perfect gifts. 

    Some years we give or get none, though we might receive plenty of wonderful gifts. 

     Perfection eludes most gifting.     

     So what’s the perfect gift?  First, what it is not, then what it is. 

    The perfect gift has nothing to do with giving exactly what’s asked for.  That’s just fulfilling a wish, which gets appreciation and gratitude, but not the wonder and joy of a perfect gift. 

    The perfect gift is seldom merely money, though that’s easy—for those who have it—and usually appreciated.   But it’s hardly perfect.  Anyone with money can give some away and relieve the challenge of gift-finding.  

     The perfect gift is not a yearly package from a Christmas gift company—nuts, cookies, fruitcake, whatever.   Such predictable yearly gifts are appreciated, but hardly perfect.  Think homemade vs. store-bought. 

    Nor is the perfect handpicked gift predictable—the same ties or shirts or candy every December 25th. They’re often appreciated, but none dare call them perfect. 
    The vast majority of gifts, you see, fall far short of perfection.  They’re what we mostly give as gifts on Christmases and birthdays. 

    So it’s a major challenge to find and give a perfect gift.  Consider:  

    The giftee never thinks to buy the perfect gift for him/herself.  It’s either too extravagant, too unusual, or too outside expectations.  A gourmet catered dinner, say, for someone who loves food but seldom goes out. Damn the considerable expense—make it among the best meals ever.    

    The perfect gift reveals the giver’s understanding of the giftee’s desires and needs.  Rare and expensive season tickets for the concertgoer or sports fan; surprise long-distance train tickets for a rail travel lover; a special Sioux ceremonial healing stick for a devotee of Native Americans. (The latter was an actual perfect gift I saw given just a few days ago, and the giftee could hardly contain his delight.)

    Finally, the perfect gift amounts to a perfect storm of choices—about the giftee’s personality, the budget, the mix of beauty and usefulness, degree of surprise, and timing.    

    This year, I did receive the perfect gift, and I was so pleased that I shared it on Facebook, and exclaim about whenever I use it.   

     It has all the attributes of a perfect gift:  unusual, nothing I would have bought for myself, surprise, and shows that the giver (my daughter) understands my personality and needs.   It’s slightly crude, but that fits my personality too, so no problem. 

    The gift?  Three rolls of China-made toilet paper with all the sheets imprinted with the unmistakable mug of—well, you can guess.   

    I plan to use it all through the holidays and share with relatives, most of whom will be aghast.  I’m hoping for amused, though.   

    Happy Holidays, and here’s hoping for a sanitary New Year.  



     
      
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    Posted in
    • Holidays
    • Humor
    • Christmas
  • Baby Jesse in the Manger

    • Posted on Dec 20, 2015

    Here's this morning's (12-20) Waterloo Courier column on what might have been,  

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Every December Christians honor the babe in the manger, and even non-Christians have to admit it’s compelling and memorable.

    It pits the meek against the mighty, poor against the rich, outcasts against insiders. Oh yes, and the founding of a world religion.

    It’s so powerful that no one thinks twice about recycling it every year.  The same ought to go for alternative versions.  Here’s my revised Christmas story that I freely adapted years ago from Matthew and Luke.

    Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for this which is conceived in her is of the holy spirit.”

    “She will bear a son or daughter and you shall call his or her name Jesus or Jesse, for he or she will save his or her people from their sins.”  

    While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to be delivered.  Lo and behold, Mary gave birth to their first-born daughter, wrapped her in swaddling clothes and laid her in a manger.  There was no soft crib because there was no place in the inn for such refugees.  

    Following the angels’ suggestion, she named her blessed daughter Jesse.

     

    Now in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone all about them.  The shepherds were sore afraid.  

    And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Jesse the Queen.

     “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

    When the angels went away into heaven the shepherds said to one another, “A little girl, our savior?  Can this be?”

    “A female savior? A lady Lord?  Women can birth saviors, but they cannot be one.   Everyone knows that!”

    They went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph.  Soon they looked with wonder on the babe lying in the manger.  And they made known that which they had heard concerning this child.  All the people wondered at what the shepherds told them.

     Then the shepherds were no longer sore afraid.  They were just plain sore. 

     “What happened to the days when only boys could be saviors?  Has any girl ever become anything but a wife, an old maid, or a witch?”

    The shepherds went home, thinking the real savior had not yet been born.  “Probably some maverick angels,” one of them mumbled.

     Along the way, they met three wise men who had heard the news.  The shepherds stopped them, saying, “Turn back. Save your frankincense and myrrh. Wait until the real savior comes along. This one’s only a baby girl named Jesse.”

     And Mary, mother of Jesse, pondered all these things in her heart.

     “What if little Jesse had been born a boy?” she wondered, after she and Joseph had returned home.  “Would he have been worshiped as a real savior?”

    Mary prayed nightly that if her daughter Jesse had any special powers she would keep them to herself.  Little boys with special powers became saviors, founders of great religions. 

     Little girls with special powers were burned as witches.

    Baby Jesse grew into wonderful woman, a friend to all in need, wise beyond her years, and deeply beloved.  Thanks to her mother’s wise teaching, she never used her miraculous powers, and never married.

    Jesse lived and died in obscurity.

    Meanwhile, all around the world, wise men kept waiting for the real savior
       
    Merry Christmas, everyone. 

     

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    Posted in
    • Religiosity
    • satire
    • Christmas
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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
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