The Small Joys in Our Lives

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is JOY, which is a very fitting word for the season. We’ve been hearing all about joy this past week, as we’ve been listening to Christmas programs put on by various of our parochial schools across North America. Two nights ago we heard the one from Buhl, Idaho; last night we listened to the school program from Lime Springs, Iowa – and after that, Christmas songs by our own school children here.

Though we can’t visit these schools in person to hear the carols and stories told, thanks to the technology of streaming we can get in on the joyful celebration surrounding the birth of Jesus, the hope and light of all the world. We still get a thrill as we hear the children singing the old familiar carols and also enjoy the new ones being introduced each year.

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for , behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

The angel’s message still circles the globe and floods this old world with hope. God has reached down to man in the form of Jesus Christ; we can be reconciled to our Creator. Also, we now have Jesus’ teachings and example of living in peace with our fellow humans.

Naturally speaking, joy may not be the first word that comes to mind. Because the incidence of COVID -19 has been on the rise in our province, restrictions are tightening up more and more. Families won’t be gathering if private homes are limited to five people at a time.

With more restrictions starting Dec 26th, or traditional Boxing Day sales will likely be rather a fizzle this year. According to space-per-person guidelines, only so many people will be allowed into stores at a time – and if it’s cold enough, folks aren’t apt to stand around outside waiting to get in. Most of us, if we’re honest, will admit that we have enough stuff now, but I hope our merchants can weather this storm. All this gives us a special joy to look forward to next year: the time when Covid-19 is a thing of the past.

For us right now, the kitten we found on our doorstep a month ago – such a lively little puffball – has brought many smiles and small joys into our lives. We’re so thankful we discovered him there before Angus could chase him away and/or something awful happened to him.

Tuffy looks quite much like this.
Image by Ben Scherjon at Pixabay

The Peril of a Great Name

Today’s Word of the Day Challenge from Kristian is FIGMENT, as in FIGMENT of your IMAGINATION. Well, here’s one. 🙂

“When I Win the Lottery…”

How many times have you heard someone say this? I have. And I’ve read about people who did win the lottery, how it played out for them. I gather it does wonders for what people think of, or expect from, you.

If you were to win a lottery, your reputation for wealth would spread far and wide. If you win the lottery, you’ll have long lost relatives who remember you, show up and want to be fed. You’ll have the most sincere wanna-be friends with pressing needs who need to borrow “…just a few bucks. Come on, you have so much.” Sales people of all kinds will be trying to get their foot in your door.

Years back a couple in our town won the lottery and she kept on working at her sales job, one she really enjoyed. But some people resented that. “She’s got all that money now and she’s taking a job away from someone who needs it!” To avoid all these things, some lottery winners have had to move to a place where nobody knew them.

Yes, winning the lottery is a mixed blessing & curse.

And America Has Won the Lottery!

A few decades ago, back in Ontario, a tractor-trailer outfit (a.k.a. a semi) stopped on the weigh scale on the Canadian border, heading into Detroit. The log book said the truck was empty, and the trucker said the same, but Canadian Customs officers were suspicious. Their scale was telling them this “empty” truck weighed more than it should.

They insisted he open the trailer and let them have a look inside… And what to their wondering eyes did appear…
but two dozen people (give or take). People who barely spoke English. Who carried Polish ID + passports.

An Imaginary Figment

Frowning Customs agents turned to the trucker for an explanation and he admitted these people have paid him to smuggle them into the US. “They seem to believe America is so rich that money is just lying around on the streets,” he explained. “So they flew to Canada as visitors and hired me to take them into the States. They want to pick up some of this money that’s lying around.”

The Polish folks were sent home – probably under the allusion that they were so close to riches and weren’t allowed to get their hands on any. And, trying to make a quick buck, the Canadian trucker was charged with smuggling human cargo.

I think of this incident whenever I read comments about how America should open her doors to the poor and needy of other lands. With the fantastic reputation she now has, there’d be standing room only! I think if you go to just about any nation and ask around, people will tell you, “Of course we’re poor compared to those rich Americans.”

Image: DarkmoonArt_de — Pixabay

Easy Money to Be Made! Just Get In

Some people do know that money doesn’t just lie around on the streets, but they still have a pretty rosy image. I was talking to a friend lately, someone who’s lived in Mexico and, with her husband, makes frequent trips there still. She tells me that a lot of Mexicans have the same impression of America: everyone there is rich. If you can get into the States you’ll only have to work a bit and the money will come flowing in. I’m sure the reality is a shock.

There was a time when America meant hard work. It was a new world, with forests to chop down and land to clear, railroads to build, factories to work in. As she prospered, her reputation for wealth increased. People in other lands now believe Americans all have great jobs and yachts and vacations around the world. From what they see, money obviously comes easy in the US. And some American writers are quick to support this thinking.

One blogger, quoting the plaque on the Statue of Liberty, felt that the States should just open the borders and let people come. Lots of room! Lots of jobs! Another article writer claims the US has room for a hundred times more people that what are living there now. (Mind you, this writer said nothing about where all these newcomers would find work. A lot of manufactured goods seem to be coming from overseas these days.)

I get the impression that many Americans — those who blog and write articles — are saying, “America is so rich. We can share.” (Or rather, “Our govt can share.”) That seems to be the “Haves” perspective. Those folks with good jobs or pensions, those who’ve won their share of the American lottery and are enjoying it.

Unlike those hopeful Poles, I’ve been in the States, seen enough places, and read enough that I realize there’s a major “Have Not” section in the US, too. So how do the Have Nots – all those folks living in ghettos, tenement slums, on the streets, Appalachian villages, and homeless camps in Florida – look at this “y’all come” generosity? Folks who’ve missed out somehow on the big win, what’s their take on this? If they were allowed to share their perspective, they could tell money-seekers a thing or two.

To Whom It May Concern:
Canada is a tough place to survive; you have to work hard to make a living; we’re almost all relatively poor; precipitation is unpredictable; our winters can be bitterly cold. We’re glad for immigrants but not delusions. 🙂

The Worst Ever!

For Goodness Sake, Read History (Part 2)

A few days ago I received an interesting phone call from some lady wanting to share a few Bible verses with me. She started out by quoting Jeremiah 29:11-12, then began talking about having peace during these troubled times. Especially with this pandemic – the worst that’s ever been!

Reader of history that I am, I reminded her of the Black Death. In the 1300’s the Bubonic Plague was brought back to Italy by sailors returning from the orient; it subsequently swept through Europe in several waves and wiped out about a third of the population of the western world. A person could argue that Covid-19 could have been as bad; however, we’ve taken extreme precautions and also have access to an infinitely better health care system.

Plus, our lot is easier because we have less corruption. I read once that in some Italian cities men were hired to go house to house and bring out any that were diseased. These toughs were given free rein to “diagnose” and haul away anyone they didn’t like or demand payment – in whatever form – from the home’s occupants. Occupants unwilling to pay risked being tossed on the cart with those already infected and/or dying.

Pardon me, but the only reason anyone can say this is the worst pandemic in history is because they don’t know history. Even the Spanish ‘flu was worse, as health care was limited and whole families sometimes died. People may be pretty panicked now, but there’s nothing like the superstition of the Middle Ages. No one has resorted to self-flagellation as some did during the Bubonic plague, going from town to town whipping and slashing themselves to gain the sympathy of the gods in hopes of averting the plague.

Climatic Disaster and Famine

Last night in Bible Study we were going over Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt and Pharoah’s dream, which Joseph interpreted. (Genesis Ch.41) Joseph predicted seven years of plenty, followed by seven lean years. According to the Bible account, this was a widespread catastrophe. It dawned on me that the drought and famine in Egypt would have been a lot like our “Dirty thirties” years.

People in the Thirties may have said, “This is the worst climatic disaster in history,” but I suspect there have been various climatic disasters before that one. Most of us have never heard about them. In most cases records weren’t kept; the accounts became simple folklore.

Thankfully, the Great Plains people learned a lot from those dry years; farming practices have changed drastically since the drought and soil moisture conservation has become a priority.

As to the Middle East famine, Joseph was able to guide Egypt through those years and preserve his own family as well. But over all, the land that was once a breadbasket is now desert sand.

Buying, Selling, and Lessons Learned

One good thing is that Egypt didn’t have a stock market to crash like ours did in 1929. In that sense the Thirties delivered a double-whammy here in North America. Then with a war looming — things must have looked pretty bleak indeed to our grandparents.

In the 1920s the sale of stocks was booming, investors were making piles, and bankers came under pressure to make collateral-free loans to wannabe stock-buyers. All these new players drove the price of stocks up, but seasoned traders were keeping a nervous eye on the trading, knowing stock prices had to level off and maybe even drop.

On “Black Tuesday” Oct 29, 1929 someone(s) got so nervous he/they dumped thousands of stocks on the market. Others investors saw this and figured, “Ah! Someone knows something. Prices are going to drop. We’re selling, too!” Sixteen million shares were thrown on the market that day and more during the rest of the week. By Friday the market was flooded with shares no one wanted to buy. The rest is history.

In the 1990’s the US government, under pressure from builders, increased the sale of new houses by urging bankers to give collateral-free loans with very low interest rates. Mortgages were contracted right and left; new home buyers gave the housing market the shot in the arm builders were hoping for. But when those mortgages came up for renewal at the regular interest rate… The rest is history.

The housing market crash and ensuing depression didn’t hit us as hard here in Canada because a) Canadian bankers are far too cautious to make collateral-free loans and b) you can’t legally walk away from a mortgage you’ve contracted here in Canada. If the mortgage holder defaults, the bank may repossess and sell the house but the holder is legally liable to pay whatever is still owing.

Fifty years from now will someone again come up with some new purchase people must make and urge bankers to make low-interest, collateral-free loans so people can have this new necessity? And it will lead to another depression? Or will our descendants read these histories and learn that this hasn’t worked well in the past?

Confessions of an Inured Earthling

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is INURED

Traveling through northern Ontario by train years ago, I’d get whiffs of the putrid sulfur fumes spewing from paper mills along Lake Superior. The joke in those places was, “You don’t need to put meat in your sandwiches. Just open your slices of bread and close them over that rich aroma.”

I felt sorry for the poor folks who lived and worked there. Wouldn’t it be great if these smog-belching, mercury-dumping factories were shut down? But then… Hold on here! I read books, magazines, catalogues. I use printer paper, paper towels, tissues, toilet paper… On second thought, keep on spewing, guys. (Try to contain the mercury, though.)

This morning I went into the kitchen and made myself a cup of coffee, which came from plantations in South America, harvested by laborers there and shipped here by boat. The beans are then roasted and packaged in Canadian factories – in foil packages made in other factories – then trucked to my local supermarket. I may grumble about pollution from factories, but this might seem hypocritical if I’m the one buying their products.

I spread my toast with margarine made from canola oil (once commonly known as rapeseed oil.) I know something about canola – it’s grown in the fields around us. In the spring our water pressure goes through some dips during seeding as our farmer neighbor fills his sprayer in preparation for seeding. Then he gets into his factory-made, fuel-consuming tractor and roars off to seed his grain.

To get good crops, and thus feed the world, farmers may use fertilizers, pre- and post-emergent herbicides, insecticides. In the case of canola, the use of desiccants at harvest is common. I like to wear cotton, but I understand cotton’s a heavily insecticide-sprayed crop. I am concerned about the effects of all these chemicals on our poor old Earth, but I also want to eat and wear clothes. And growers want to earn a living. So what’s the answer?

One day shortly after a power outage here, I was talking with a friend in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario and we discussed how we’d ever survive without electricity. She assured we that we could if we had to – we just would. “But how?” I asked. She answered, “We’d just have to leave the city and go back to the land.” And I thought, You don’t know what you’re saying!

“Think of the hundreds of seniors in your apartment building alone,” I told her. “And the millions of people in your city. Our lives are built on having a reliable source of power. Heating, air-conditioning, traffic control, gas pumps, street lights, water purification and circulation, all depend on power. You just can’t move city dwellers back into the woods, have them build log cabins and expect they’ll survive.”

The fact is, without a fairly steady power supply millions of people across our country would die. Sorry about the pollution, but keep those hydro-electric generators running, churning out power.

When I read fellow blogger Judy D-B’s response to this prompt, mainly the lines about “…the factories smudging the skies with their waste…,” I had to admit my guilt. Paper mills, cotton mills, steel mills – I buy the products of these factories. I use planes that probably pollute the atmosphere. Why, if it were a free trip I might even like to check out one of those fuel-guzzling, pollution-generating behemoths a.k.a an ocean liner. (Just once.)

I can do without flyers, go totally to e-mail, cut back on my purchases. But at our age, I hope we never have to go back to a log cabin in the bush, use candles or kerosine lamps, pump water from a well, chop firewood, wrap up in lots of blankets in winter, hitch the horses to go to town, or use an outdoor biffy where autumn leaves serve as T.P. What about you? Are you willing to give up cell phones, travel, new clothes and paper products in order to save the environment?

Because we seem to really like the life we have now, I don’t see any end to growing practices or factories. (And I really don’t support shutting down factories here, putting our own people out of work because pollution controls are too costly, then buying from countries that produce cheap goods because they ignore pollution issues.)

I do want to be aware, to curb my hunger for “the latest” and not be wasteful. But I don’t see many options, so in the end I go with common sense and have probably inured myself somewhat to how the earth suffers for my sake. As the saying goes…

“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”