Duane Smith | A Christmas Prayer for America

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Dear Lord, thank you for the blessing of being an American! I’ve been pondering a recent trip to Costco, combined with celebrating your birth, and wanted to reach out!  

I take full responsibility for going to Costco at 11:30 a.m. the Monday before Thanksgiving. The Santa Clarita location, was the busiest I have ever seen a Costco. Masses were feverishly scrambling to ready themselves for Thanksgiving. Yes, to be expected, but what I did not expect was the total absence of joy. Sadly, I only counted four smiles at Costco, not including the one “I tried” to give any set of eyes I connected with. 

The first smile was from a lady who bumped into me. I thanked her for her smile! It was so refreshing. Needed. 

The second smile came from someone I almost bumped into. I smiled first, and said “I’m sorry.” Immediately the once-stone face lit up! 

Smiles are contagious. Evolution cannot even explain the purpose of a smile. Even a newborn baby knows its power. Thank you Lord for smiles!  

The third smile would not happen until nearly an hour later. I was exiting Costco. I noticed a man working at customer service. He had a consistent and radiant smile for everyone.  His name-tag read “Ira.” From a distance I called out, “Hey Ira!” He looked at me confused. I responded, “Thank you for your smile.” 

Ira replied, “God bless you, brother.” 

The final smile was at the exit, another Costco employee named David checking receipts. I also thanked David. But Lord, three days before Thanksgiving … and only four smiles in a Costco? Forgive us!

At Costco, we can fill our carts with anything our heart desires … food, drink, technology, jewelry, clothing and more. At the same time we are given tasty samples to nibble on as we contemplate our purchases, most not even needed, but desired. While not everyone in America is so blessed, our nation is the wealthiest on the planet. Even many of our homeless (I pray you protect them), have smart phones; and if they choose, meals and shelter provided in most major cities. 

Understandably, much of the world sees America as a fantasy to be envied from afar, or something they risk their lives to try and escape to; while, at the same time, wars in Israel and Ukraine, and scattered unrest defines much of the world. 

But only four smiles in Costco on Thanksgivingweek? 

Regardless, America is the place where most people want to be; because America is a place where people can get, do, or be whatever their heart desires.

Our dear leaders have ensured that, both alcohol and now marijuana can be freely purchased and consumed without question; gambling no longer requires a trip to Las Vegas or Atlantic City, but is now conveniently found all over our country, or, can be done from the comfort of home on a computer; most sexual expressions are now promoted and celebrated as love not to be questioned; and anyone can be anything they choose to identify as.  Nonetheless … people are sad?  

Recently, our surgeon general declared that, we have a loneliness epidemic, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, addiction and dementia.  Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that America’s mental-health crisis drove suicides to a record number last year.  

Even though Americans can do whatever makes us happy, most are not!

I wonder, Lord, as we prepare to celebrate your birthday, while our stock market is breaking records signaling another year of outrageous prosperity, if maybe our collective challenges are linked to ignoring you, even though it is in your name, billions are at stake, while retailers compete for what people expect to receive for “your birthday”? All in your name, but not really!  

I’ll never forget in graduate school, 1996, the head of the graduate program for “communication studies” told me that she was offended by a sign in my office that read, “Merry Christmas.” She insisted I take it down.  At the time I dismissed it as silliness confined to “higher education.” Little did I know, at the time, whatever is born on a college campus eventually dictates culture.

Lord, while it’s no longer considered “normal,” or even acceptable in many places today, to praise you, or give you thanks, you continue to bless the U.S., for which I am very thankful! But, I wonder how much better things could be, would be, if Americans didn’t just celebrate — on the down low — in your name once a year, but also prayed in your name, without ceasing. Please help us to do so. Thank you for your continued grace and patience with America! Amen.

Duane Smith

Agua Dulce

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