This holiday season, rethink how you give
The traffic jams. The stress. The endless spending. The wandering through a wasteland of malls aimlessly looking for gifts. The debt. The chaos. The madness. 'Tis the season to be … jolly?
Wait a second. Isn't Christmas supposed to be about giving? A season of generosity, of hope and love? In a time when America is faced with lingering economic adversity and an unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, why is it that our perception of Christmas still remains the same — one of consumption, increased debt and anxiety?
Above all, the Christmas season is meant to be a time of giving. Yet somehow the meaning gets lost every passing year between the pages of bills, in traffic jams, inflated budgets and mall madness. As appealing as disgruntled shoppers and credit card debt sound, I suggest we take another look at how we give this holiday season.
For so long, we've been taught in our culture that presents come with price tags. We forget that time itself can be one of the most precious gifts of all. Instead of spending hours scouring the mall buying things, why not spend those hours with the people we love? Have coffee with a good friend you've lost touch with. Share a bottle of wine with your neighbors. Invite your circle of friends over for a holiday meal. Meet someone new you wouldn't normally befriend. Throw a holiday party and get the whole neighborhood involved. Spend an evening with friends and family making gifts the way you did when you were a kid. Make it a point this year to deepen existing relationships and create new ones.
Christmas is a time of the year when people have been known to be especially lonely. You may never know it, but the time you spend with the people in your life this holiday season may be the exact gift they've needed for weeks, months or even years.
So before you join the assembly line of people out shopping for that perfect gift, contributing to the same crowds, the same debt and the same holiday mess, I dare you to do something different this year. Imagine what the spirit of giving really looks like and recreate it. Reshape old ideas about what it means to give. With time being one of the most precious commodities in life, could we be spending it any better than by giving it directly to the people we care about? Give your time, wrap it with love, and watch what grows out of it long after the season of giving is over.
Jacqueline McLane, Tarpon Springs
Dead officer, ranting suspect | Dec. 9, story
Tragedy can result when mentally ill are not treated
I felt so sad as I again read of the death of Tampa police Cpl. Mike Roberts who was killed by a man who from all newspaper accounts was severely mentally ill. What a horrible loss of a young police officer and such a tragedy for his family. To make it even worse, the man who is charged with killing Cpl. Roberts, Humberto Delgado, is a former police officer himself. Delgado also served in our military before being honorably discharged due to an injury and illness.
I began working as a registered nurse in the field of mental illness in 1964. Over the years I have seen more and more people denied treatment because of lack of funds and also an increased emphasis on guarding their civil rights. I realize that back in the 1950s and before, some people were wrongly locked up by uncaring relatives. But over the years the pendulum has swung so much the other way that people in tremendous need of treatment go untreated. They live in the street and under bridges. When this goes on for long enough, tragedy often occurs.
Someone who is psychotic may not realize their need for treatment or be ambivalent about it. They may hallucinate and be delusional. They may be unable to know how to access help if it is available. Today, a person has to deteriorate to the point of breaking a law in order to be brought to the attention of anyone in authority. Then, rather than get treatment, they are released to the same situation or end up in jail. How can we as a society live with ourselves?
If you do not care about the pain and suffering of the mentally ill, think about the sometime tragedies that then occur, such as the loss of the life of this young police officer. The man accused of shooting him was once a productive citizen. He might have been able to recover if he had had the right treatment available to him. Now the lives of two men are gone.
Elizabeth Jacobsma, New Port Richey
In this holiday season, and with all our different beliefs, we need to remember that this is the United States of America. We were founded on the idea of accepting all religions and ethnicities. These are traditions that have given each of us our freedom to express ourselves.
I fear that all this "political correctness" is devouring us and is from a small group of people that cannot accept others for what they are. I'm a proud "American" not a European, Indian, African or any other group I have not mentioned.
We are all Americans. It does not matter where we all come from. The only thing that matters is our respect for others and their beliefs. We forgot how to smile and laugh at differences and at ourselves and be more accepting of each other. With this I say "Merry Christmas" and "God bless all Americans."
Elaine Vincent, Tarpon Springs
Perk for few as millions do without | Dec. 4, editorial
State employee plight
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board has opined that when it comes to state employees and health benefits, the Republicans should "Run government like a business" as they promised.
I have worked for the state of Florida for more than 25 years as an attorney. I do not make a six- figure salary, like virtually all of my fellow law school classmates. I do not get year-end bonuses, based not only on my work, but also the work of the more junior attorneys in my office. I never got a signing bonus or relocation costs, like my classmates. My starting salary was $17,000 a year, when my classmates were starting in the mid $40,000 range and up. And my salary remains well below that of lawyers in the private sector with my experience and duties.
This situation is not unique to me, but applies to all the state employees I have encountered in my decades of service to the citizens of this state.
To the Times and those citizens who want us state employees to be treated like employees of a business, I say "Hurray!" Because that will mean I have to pay a portion (or even all) of my health insurance. But it also means I get back the years of being underpaid, and my salary will at least double or triple. I will also get year-end bonuses, signing bonuses and relocation costs. I will have a home in an upper-class neighborhood filled with professionals instead of the one in the working-class neighborhood I now live in. Oh, and I probably also would not have had my salary frozen for four years with no increase in sight — for the second time in my career.
Be careful what you wish for when you say you want us treated like business employees. Or did you mean to say you wanted to treat us even more like the second-class citizens the Legislature is already treating us like?
Jill Menadier, Tampa
Letters from state workers | Dec. 3
Ready to trade places
I'm sorry the letter writers feel "irritated" by criticism. It is really sad that one letter writer has to pay a whole $235 a month to cover herself and her husband for medical, dental and vision and, oh, those deductibles and co-pays. How does she manage?
I'm retired, on Social security and Medicare and it costs me and my wife close to $500 a month for medical and prescription coverage, and that does not include vision and dental. In addition, I still have a 5 percent portion to pay as well as those durn deductibles and co-pays.
So, guys, as much as we weep for your predicament, many of us would love to be in your place.
Bob Jillings, Brooksville
U.S. prison population reaches another record | Dec. 9
Face the reality
We have learned nothing from Prohibition!
Your article underscores reason No. 1 for legalizing, regulating and taxing drugs. I am not a drug advocate at all — I'm just saying the current head-in-the-sand policy is not working as evidenced by your article.
There are literally hundreds of thousands talented young entrepreneurs who could lead educated and productive lives but instead are languishing behind bars because they channeled their business acumen into a high-demand but illegal market. My guess is that it's a significant portion of the 2.3 million prisoners.
None of our politicians appear to have the guts to admit that there is a market for this product, and perhaps we should face up to this reality. All drug lords would be out of business overnight, the Taliban would lose its funding and crime would decline dramatically. Instead of spending billions on fighting reality, spending a few million to do an analysis of the impact of legalization might make sense.
Peter Sontag, Clearwater
George Locascio, 1926-2009
Battling for the disabled
The disability rights movement lost a warrior last Saturday with the passing of George Locascio. As he did in life, George battled valiantly in his last hours before succumbing to a staph infection.
Fighting long odds was nothing new to George. It began when he was an undersized lineman for East Hartford High School's varsity football team, escalated immensely after he contracted polio while serving in World War II, and persisted as he faced architectural and attitudinal barriers on paralyzed legs.
But George did not recoil. With the aid of arm-cuff crutches, he attacked life with vigor, graduating from business college, getting married, having children, and becoming gainfully employed. As general manager of Abilities of Florida, he used printing and direct mail subcontract work to transform the nonprofit into a million-dollar enterprise employing 60 disabled workers.
He later applied those skills in the commercial services department of the St. Petersburg Times, where he retired in 1991. As his shoulders deteriorated from multiple surgeries, his crutches gave way to a wheelchair, but did not slow him down.
Together with his first wife Breverly, he turned his attention to removing roadblocks to public access for people with disabilities. George took on municipalities, businesses and restaurants, first asking that reasonable accommodations be made, but then resorting to lawsuits when necessary.
Of all his accomplishments, however, George was most proud of establishing the B & G Endowment, which funds the emergency health, housing and work-related needs of people with disabilities. Among those served are disabled veterans, single parents, homeless people, hurricane evacuees and victims of crime.
George can rest now, knowing he's made it possible or easier for a person with a disability to access all that life has to offer.
Frank De Lucia, president and CEO, Abilities Foundation, Clearwater
Plug the loopholes in deal on billboards Dec. 8, Howard Troxler column
Another driver distraction
Regarding Howard Troxler's column about digital billboards, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recognizes that reading while driving increases the chance of an accident because drivers take their eyes off the road and divert their attention to processing the message they are reading.
Are we now going to sanction the equivalent of a large-screen TV broadcasting commercial messages which compete for the attention of drivers who should be concentrating on safely moving two to four tons of steel down the road?
Michael Goodson, Seminole
Guns are riding high on holiday gift lists Dec. 3, story
Guns make a sad gift
What a sad way to celebrate Christmas, the birthday of the Prince of Peace — arming the whole family with deadly weapons.
Instead of "the family that prays together, stays together," we can say "the family that slays together, stays together." Unless of course, they slay each other, which seems to happen with frightening frequency, using those handy guns.
I guess America isn't the "Christian" nation it likes to claim it is if we ignore the most basic tenets of the faith.
Jesus taught that the way to change a culture of violence was to care for each other, to share what we have, and to seek peace.
Instead, we deck the halls with rounds of ammo.
Maggie Talbot, Clearwater
Despicable coverage | Dec. 9, letter
Welcome to the 21st century, where people do not like hearing that men in the public eye step out on their wives and families. A lot of recent stories involving our nation's politicians come to mind.
FDR, Eisenhower and JFK were all men we looked up to as a nation, but America was not shown a complete picture of who they were while they were in office. It was done to Bill Clinton (Sen. David Vitter, Sen. John Ensign, Gov. Mark Sanford and more) and it should be done to Tiger Woods (as it was done to Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan).
Children look up to Woods as a role model, and yes, while not everyone is perfect, he shouldn't purport to be something that he is not.
This incident just goes to show that there is a lack of role models out there for our children, but more importantly, that we shouldn't be looking at politicians and professional athletes as substitutes for real role models, who can be found in our children's everyday lives.
Stacey Kroto, Pinellas Park