The Story of the Second Part, inspired by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
An economy dead in the water for the past five years. Most have retrenched, even if they don’t admit it. A lot of families have adjusted to the “New Normal” have swallowed the foreclosures and the downsizings. Spending is healthy, Target security breaches aside. Homelessness has improved slightly nationwide, so more people have a home to celebrate Christmas in. The unemployment rate is down, of course, it is acknowledged without saying that there are plenty of people who are working well-below their capability, skills and experience, plenty working part-time when they would rather have full time, plenty who have simply given up. Disability payments are through the roof, because a number of States cure their unemployment increases by pushing people onto disability. (Which, by the way, works for about another two years until the Disability Trust Fund runs out of money.)
Some people now have health insurance through the new government program. Millions lost insurance, and no one is talking yet about how many have found an acceptable replacement. The plans aren’t cheap–$1400 a month for a family of six in Chicago to purchase a bronze plan. (A friend of mine owns a rental property in central Chicago: About $1000 a month for a gut-remodel one bedroom plus den in an OK neighborhood. Not that six people are going to live in a one bedroom plus den, but you get my meaning.) Even the Obamas go Bronze.
Food banks and toy drives and clothing drives gather donations, cash and in kind. Resources are redistributed as best as possible—cut some staff positions when people leave, another job gone. No different than a few years ago when money was flush, just stretched a bit thinner, with some corners cut and some deep breaths and some fingers crossed. A few partners close their doors; a few donors can’t quite give what they used to. A few sponsors withdraw support, their own retrenchment.
Enrollments drop in smaller colleges with local and regional draws. With a lot of the older Millenials leaving college for working at a diner, can you blame the next generation? It’s not like it’s free these days.
Families, friends, communities, individuals gather around dinner tables, at light displays, hang decorations, admire each other’s handiwork, eat cookies, sing carols. Smile, hug, give thanks, wish each other well and hope for a good year. (It came with out ribbons, It came without tags, It came without packages, boxes or bags.)