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The Holiday spirit, handed out on a card
By Ray Hanania — When I was a kid, my family and I huddled around a small Zenith Black and White TV to watch such great classic movies about the holidays.
Although we had no idea how technology would change our daily lives and drain our pocketbooks and bank accounts faster than the mortgage company, we believed that the “Holiday Spirit” was an attitude of caring, compassion and generosity.
We believed that you helped your “fellow man” when they were in need so we donated money to the local church and to local charities, even though we didn’t have that much.
Things have changed. Mother Theresa has been replaced by Steve Jobs. And a clout-heavy suburban community, Oak Park, has decided that the Holiday Spirit doesn’t include the down and out. So they have a “new campaign” to deal with the homeless, the poor and their fellow man who is in desperate need for help.
No, they’re not setting aside funds to help the poor enjoy the Holiday Spirit with the rest of us. Instead, they are telling the rich and the well-to-do to hand out cards they are printing to “panhandlers” urging the needy to seek help someplace else.
I am a member of a breed of corrupt human beings called “media consultants.” Although I am caring and compassionate and do my best to live by an ethical standard of never lying and always being honest, not all consultants are like that.
And I know this Oak Park plan didn’t come out of the mind of the village’s elected officials or its mayor. It had to be the brainchild of a consultant making six figures to suggest “neat ideas” to help give the community some publicity.
Yes, the poor can be annoying, I guess. They are starving. Have no money. No homes. No future. And very little hope. But they have the gall to come up to you on the street and ask for money. Pocket change, really. Some coins or maybe even a dollar bill – even though we all know that a one dollar bill is basically worthless.
Oak Park thinks that “consumers” who will be bundled in warm coats and planning all kinds of holiday dinners for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and others should instead of digging deep in their pockets to toss a few crumbs to the poor should hand out those cards.
Maybe they should call them “Instruction Cards on How to be Poor.” Or maybe, just call them the “Grinch Cards.”
It’s a “Palm Card” which urges the “panhandler” to seek professional help through one of several charities. It has a phone number and name of locations where they can go to get help.
Oh yea. If I were a “panhandler” I’m sure I’d just pull out my cell phone and call the poor house and ask them to take me in.
The Card has information on local charities such as the PADS homeless shelter and the Walk-in Ministry at the First United Church of Oak Park. As if the “panhandlers” didn’t already know about those places.
Maybe the people in Oak Park don’t know this but governments like their own have been cutting back social service assistance to the needy over the years – while padding the bonuses of corporate robber barons in the banking and investment industry and pouring wealth into the pockets of members of Congress.
Oak Park has a law banning panhandling, as if panhandling were really a choice. Actually, its’ a lifestyle that is growing in popularity these days with more and more families joining the ranks of the poor. The police in Oak Park admit that they can’t really prosecute people for panhandling because it contradicts something America was built upon. No, I’m not talking about the right to life as much as it undermines their liberties. Free speech.
If you want to go up to a fellow man and ask for a dime, you have that right. But not in Oak Park where the rich and wealthy have been complaining about the annoying poor people who are coming up to them asking for charity.
It’s kind of disturbing, actually, Oak Park and all their rich people not wanting to be bothered by the poor. Maybe not wanting to be distracted from their happiness by other human beings who have not been so fortunate.
The police say they breed crime. But I think it’s just that the wealthy don’t think that poor people make good ornaments on their Christmas Trees.
In the movie Miracle on 34th Street that my family watched almost every year, I remember one comment from Fred Gailey (John Payne) who played an attorney who was caring for the daughter (a six year old Natalie Wood, before she was possibly murdered) of a woman who fires her store Santa Claus because he refused to tell her daughter that Santa Claus is not real.
Gailey said, “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.”
Common sense tells us that we should learn to help, not hinder people in need.
Let’s restore some faith. Tell Oak Park officials to shove their palm cards up their tight asses. If they want to do something about the “panhandlers,” how about organizing a dinner for them and collect clothing and help them find care. Let them enjoy the holidays, too.
I have faith that not everyone in Oak Park is a Grinch.
Here’s the telephone number and email of Oak Park’s Mayor David Pope (Pope? Isn’t that a kind of an oxymoron in this situation?): firstname.lastname@example.org; 708-358-5796. Maybe the “Pope” needs a little Holiday lift.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, media consultant and radio talk show host. Listen to his show every Sunday from 8 to 11 am on WSBC AM 1240 Radio. Reach him at www.RadioChicagoland.com.)
This post has already been read 57 times!
Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com