Savannah Morning News
Jan. 21, 2018
In the rush of December, who has time to make any resolutions? We’re doing well if we don’t tell the same story twice to the same person at different gatherings, if we remember someone’s name 10 minutes after we hear it, if we get through the holidays without some major breakdown, if we can keep the days straight. Just this year I heard the term Christmas Eve Eve for the first time. Now it all makes sense.
And what do you do with the leftover sour cream (from Chanukah potato latkes) anyway? Make cheese blintzes? I’ve already turned the carton upside down in the fridge. I’m told it keeps better that way (but to Chanukah 2018? Probably not). Now there’s a resolution: you don’t need that much sour cream for Chanukah.
Here’s another resolution: start thinking about presents before Eve Eve. Some people are terrific gift-givers. All year they listen to something you might say, some hint, some clue you might drop. They’re sleuths. Then they squirrel away the idea. Or the gift. And remember where they hid it.
Some of us are terrible gift givers. I’m one of them. Maybe I can get better. Except it takes more than that. It takes intention. I know about intention because once a long, long time ago, way back when Richard M. Nixon was president and Chicago had four daily newspapers, I got roped into going to an EST seminar, EST, as in Werner Erhard, in Chicago. If you watched “The Americans” you might have heard about EST although by then the name was changed to The Forum. Same thing. This was the height of the self-improvement period, the Human Potential Movement. EST was about learning how to take personal responsibility. It’s about transformation. Of all those silly (or not so silly) things we did or read to “improve” ourselves, one EST phrase stuck with me. It goes like this: every time you hear the word “hope” you substitute the word “intend,” as in “I intend to read ‘War and Peace,’” not “I hope to read ‘War and Peace.’ Or “I intend to walk around the park every morning.” It’s simple. It’s powerful.
Maybe it’s the volume of gifts that seems so wrong. Except people can’t help themselves. I know one family that decided to draw names around Thanksgiving. That way only one gift would be bought and given. Didn’t work. People wanted to buy gifts for everyone. They started doing it on the sly. Now they’re back to the old way.
And that’s where I’m going. To the old way. For my resolution, I’m going to the phone. I’m going to start calling out-of-town friends more. I’m going to initiate conversation. Not that’s it’s easy. I tried a few weeks ago (of course it took three or four back-and-forths before we were both on the phone at the same time. Hello? Hello? Is this a real person?). She was sort of stunned after realizing I wasn’t calling about some crisis, I was just calling to chit-chat. “This is fun,” Nicole said. “Just talking.”
But we don’t call. We text or email first. “When’s a good time to call?” When asked why, someone will say, “I didn’t want to bother you.” Or, “I know you’re busy.”
PS, most people are not that busy.
Another call I’ve started making is to the people who represent me in Congress. Full disclosure: I’ve never made the calls. I’m not proud of this. Cynicism and/or skepticism is a mighty foe. But to quote Oprah Winfrey, “A new day is on the horizon!”
I started this week. I called Rep. Buddy Carter (202-225-5831). I told the woman who answered the phone – it’s hard to tell from phone voices but she sounded as if she were 12 – I was not happy with Carter’s vote on the proposed 13 percent reduction in subsidies to Amtrak.
“Do you know 220 towns would lose service?” I asked. “And that most of these small flyover states don’t have airports or Uber service?”
She did not.
I asked if she knew that we subsidize airlines right and left through a domestic passenger ticket tax, the domestic flight segment tax, an international arrival tax, a Sept. 11 security fee, just to name a few.
She did not.
“I asked if she knew how Rep. Carter voted on this?”
She did not.
So I told her. He voted to eliminate subsidies.
And that was it. I made the call. I’ll make it again. It felt good. It felt right.
“I’ll pass along your opinion,” she said. “Have a nice day.”