Christmas Isn’t the Most Wonderful Time of the Year for All

Deck the halls! It’s Christmas and I love the warmth of it: strangers embracing and goodwill flowing; gorgeous music, particularly the English and German carols; the feasting; and the wondrous excitement of it all. It’s every year’s exuberant moment.

But it isn’t for everyone.

The shut-in and the shut-out have an especially hard time as the rest of us cavort in funny hats, red vests, hugging, laughing, eating (too much) and drinking (a bit too much). My mother, who was a teetotaler all year long, would drink two small glasses of sweet sherry and declare that God would forgive her because it was Christmas.

But it’s also a time when those who are hurting hurt more. When those who are lonely feel their isolation more keenly. And when those who are bedridden feel the bondage of the blankets more acutely.

For those incarcerated at Christmas, the bars press in. For those who have no home, the sidewalks are hard and the shelters are terrible. Homelessness is the workhouse and sleeping in the streets is the debtors’ prison of the 21st century.

There are no mangers in urban America.

Spare a thought among the jollity and mirth for those who are sick, those who care for the sick, those who are in prison, and those who will lay down their heads on a concrete couch maybe after a charity handed out dinner. They weren’t made for that.


The Dog Poems That Warm The Heart

If you’re getting a puppy for Christmas, or if you have a dog, it’s time you read the four greatest poems ever written, to my knowledge, about dogs. They are the work of Rudyard Kipling.

My wife, Linda Gasparello, and I routinely send them to friends who have lost a dog or, even more sadly, have had to put one down.

I can’t resist the first two lines of “His Apologies”:

Master, this is Thy Servant. He is rising eight weeks old.
He is mainly Head and Tummy. His legs are uncontrolled.

Or this verse from “The Power of the Dog”:

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.


After the Tax Cuts, Where Will We Get the Workers?

If the tax cut produces more jobs, as President Trump promises, there will be a labor shortage of gargantuan proportions.

Talking to an executive from a trucking company, I learn that his company is desperate for drivers. Nationwide, there are more than 30,000 vacancies for drivers in a workforce of 3.5 million. Turnover is 90 percent, as drivers seek better jobs and easier work.

A driver makes about $41,000 — a wage that hasn’t kept up with living costs. In the glory days, before trucking was deregulated in 1980, a driver made good money and was firmly a part of the middle class.

Likewise, the contracting industry is hampered by a lack of workers. An architect in a large practice tells me they can’t get contractors for new projects because the contractors can’t get qualified help.

Next step: Welcome back the undocumented? Considering the severity of the labor shortage, one wonders how soon automated trucks will hit the streets. My friend in the trucking industry says his company is watching Tesla with keen interest and is in touch with Tesla management.

At Harvard, I sit in on a Boston Global Forum session whose participants are talking about massive job displacement by artificial intelligence. Optimists tell you that all past automation has led to an abundance of new jobs. But, avers a friend in industry, in the past, automation produced new products, and AI looks like it will just make old ones better. And there’s the rub, as Hamlet said.

The Things They Say

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked me for my autograph.” — Shirley Temple Black