Tom Campbell: We need a little Christmas

Published 4:55 am Sunday, December 23, 2018

Have you driven around North Carolina recently? More people have decorated with outdoor lights, blowups and festive displays than we’ve seen in years.

I believe I know why. It’s been a really hard year. Folks feel beaten up, burned out and bankrupted. They are weary, pessimistic and don’t much trust anyone or any organization.

Our state has had an especially troubled 2018. Hurricanes, floods and even a snowstorm battered us badly. Our farmers are experiencing the worst conditions since perhaps The Great Depression. Just as crops were ready for harvest, Hurricane Florence drowned many of them. This “perfect storm” was completed by the combination of tariffs and a crash in the price of corn, soybeans, pork and other farm products.

Other businesses, like tourism, retailing and fishing also suffered losses and it will be years before we forget roadsides piled high with family possessions ruined by flooding.

For a short time we came together as a state to help those affected. Neighbor helped neighbor, strangers showed up providing acts of kindness and people opened their pocketbooks and their hearts for others. It gave us hope there are indeed better angels among us. Sadly, that help and spirit waned too soon.

Political storms were as bad. In my 50-plus years covering North Carolina I cannot remember a time when the public discourse was worse. Political leaders seem more consumed by tribal politics than by common sense or the common good. Compromise has become so rare that we marvel on those occasions when it actually occurs. “Gotcha” politics rules the day; one can only win if the other loses. Disruptions, lawsuits, name-calling and ugliness are the new normal.

I leave it to you to decide if these are just ramblings from a septuagenarian who longs for simpler, happier times or if, as I suspect, they are accurate representations of the life and times in which we live today.

After the year we’ve just experienced we want to believe, we long for warm relationships and want respite from the stream of what we see and hear around us. And maybe it is a false hope, but even if for just a few days, we yearn for that feeling of rightness with others and our world. So we string lights and decorations, wear tacky sweaters and other clothing, binge out on Hallmark movies and listen to continuous Christmas music on the radio.

In his wonderful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, North Carolina’s great showman Ira David Wood, portraying Ebenezer Scrooge, leads his character and the audience to the conclusion that we need a little Christmas. Indeed, we do.

For Christians, Christmas means hope on the horizon, but people of all faiths seek the hope that believing in something bigger than ourselves brings. Our wish is that you find the joy, peace, hope and contentment of this season.

As Tiny Tim says, “God bless us, every one.”

Tom Campbell, former assistant state treasurer, is creator/host of “NC SPIN.”