Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Column - 12/21/09

Edward Mooney, Jr.
Antelope Valley Press
December 21, 2009

TITLE: A teacher's letter to Santa.

Dear Santa,

Yes, I know. A Christmas List from, well, a middle-aged high school teacher and writer is a bit weird. Please forgive me; I'm envious of small children - my innocence disappeared so many years ago.

Do you remember how, as a child, I used to make my Christmas List in ascending order? The least important request would be listed first? Remember how I used to put stars after each item, to tell you how important each was?

Let's start with the least important aspects of Christmas; in other words, if I don't get these things I'll be a little disappointed, but I'll be alright. The stocking stuffers are "ONE STAR" items; you always know what to do.

The "TWO STARS" (things I'd like to have) include a "netbook" computer, a few new pairs of pants (I lost 55 pounds, you know), and Angels or Dodgers season tickets. I'd love more books about World War II history, and, oh, a cruise to Alaska would be cool!

The "THREE STARS" list includes things that would be missed a lot, but their absence would not mean an end to life as I know it. Our house could really need new carpeting, but pay cuts have hit hard. A new fence would really help, too. And maybe my wife could find a new place to work that will recognize her incredible talent working with disabled kids.

The "FOUR STARS" items are more critical. Their absence makes life more difficult. Actually, this category has just one item. These carry more cost, so I limit how many are on my list. This year's "FOUR STARS" request is simple.

Santa, so many children hate school, and so many more wish they could go to college and they're unable to do so. Could you wake lawmakers up? Please show them that, as Albert Einstein once said, "All that is valuable cannot be measured, and all that can be measured is not valuable." I became a teacher to give young people an alternative to a lost life of crime, but I'm confused by the message lawmakers seem to be sending: "Dump more work on them. Don't care about their needs." The kids see the contradiction - and they're angry.

The leaders seem to say, "work hard and get ready for college" at the same they're putting state colleges and universities out of reach for most kids. So many politicians worry about the generational cost of the deficits in government, but cannot see the horrible cost of a generation lost because there is no room in college for them.

The irony is that California is first in the nation in dollars spent per prisoner, and now last in dollars spent per student. How sad.

Please, open their eyes. Let them see that test scores do not equal excellence, but mediocrity. Let them see that by cutting our schools we're telling the middle class, who pay most of the taxes, to leave the state if they're concerned about their kids going to college.

As to my "FIVE STARS" item, well, I already have it. Life would be as empty as a dumpster without this. In fact, it was. Many years ago, when I lost my first wife, my home, and all my money, I was in despair. I called out to God and asked him to "take me home". I didn't want to live in the depths of that emptiness. It was Christmas week, and I had no way to buy gifts for my children.

He answered in a way that helped me understand the phrase "a Savior is born". I felt what I call a "Presence of Love", for no good reason, at that low point in my life. It was as real as anything I've ever seen. I touched the Presence of God. The dark emptiness was lifted.

This, to me, is truly Christmas. Jesus was born 20 centuries ago to break the horror of life being nothing more than emptiness, misery and death. That's everything to me. The creationism versus evolution debate is meaningless.
Whether or not America is a Christian nation is void. I touched the "empty
aloneness", and I now see that love is all that matters.

So, thanks again, 24 years later, for that FIVE STAR gift. I still like it. Get me any of the other items as you can. Really.

Merry Christmas, Antelope Valley!

Though for the Week: "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11

Edward Mooney, Jr., a Palmdale author, is a teacher at Quartz Hill High School.

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