December 14, 2006

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Concord Publisher's Note: The real reason for the season
By Dan Szczesny

It’s happening again, just like clockwork.

About this time of year, the question of what Christmas is all about becomes controversial. Just what is the reason for the season anyway? Well, like anything else, it depends on whom you ask and I don’t say that lightly.

It’s gotten so bad that it’s actually offensive to some to be wished a “Merry Christmas” as opposed to the more generic “Happy Holidays.” I’m just going to stick with “Have a nice day” and hope for the best.

I rehash all of this, reluctantly, to illustrate the contrast between what has become an unpleasant exercise in political correctness and the actual meaning of Christmas—which should and can be bigger than mere words and pointless debate.

And Concord, of all places, is fortunate to have a shining example of what the holiday should be all about, the charity of a woman named Evelyn Arell.

Evelyn, who passed away at Havenwood-Heritage Heights in September at the ripe old age of 96, was a well-known area hairdresser. She and her husband, Noah, founded and ran the New Hampshire Bindery on South Main Street.

It turns out that Evelyn was a smart investor. When she passed away, she had a trust of $5 million and she left the whole thing to two dozen local charities and organizations. Some of the stunned and grateful recipients: the Friends Program, the Concord Public Library, the Salvation Army of Concord, the Capital Region Food Program, Concord Hospital, the Audubon Society and the Concord Boys and Girls Club. They will receive between $150,000 to $250,000 apiece, a startlingly large amount of money for some of these organizations.

As it happens, Evelyn passed away in September, which makes these donations look even more like Christmas gifts. But they are not. They are, instead, the final actions of a woman who lived and loved her community and decided to be charitable and give back.

Evelyn’s gift to her community speaks to a greater purpose than any of the once-a-year high holidays, Christmas or otherwise. Charity and giving should not just be relegated to a special day or season. The real meaning of Christmas or Hanukkah or any high holy day is not to buy presents, nor to worship a deity. The real meaning of the holidays is to remember to be charitable and compassionate, every day of the year, to everyone you meet. Evelyn taught us that lesson.

Jesus in the house
It’s nice to see the baby Jesus has arrived early this year. While most cities wait until Christmas to plant Jesus in his crib, the Concord layout already has the little guy in place. Let’s hope Concord’s preemie Jesus doesn’t meet the same fate as the one belonging to the Epsom resident who discovered his baby Jesus missing and replaced with a beer can. Having the holiday tree fall on him was bad enough if you ask me.

Still, should Concord’s baby Jesus disappear, there’s a very pregnant employee here at the Hippo who volunteered her baby as a sit-in should the need arise. Now, that’s charitable.