Photograph by Paul L. Dineen
We got a majestic snowfall on Christmas Eve. Gorgeous flakes a foot apart filled the entire sky for hours. We ate and laughed and opened gifts all while watching the marvelous skies.
When that party ended, we loaded our little boys and our luck back in the car and headed toward the next grandparents’ house. That snow, so postcard-perfect in the sky, became a threat on the ground. We rolled slowly on the highway and passed cars in the ditch and more cars in the ditch. We pulled off the highway to quadruple-check the weather report that only said snow and more snow. We did the math and no matter how we added or subtracted or multiplied or divided, the answer was the same: Keep our children safe.
We called Grandma and Grandpa to let them know we couldn’t make it that night. The boys wailed deep tears of love and of longing. We parents let one or two slip too. But we made it home safely, and we woke to love on Christmas morning. We even got up to Grandma and Grandpa’s the day after Christmas. The entire time, from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day to the 26th, not once were we concerned about our money or our taxes. We worried about our children. We worried about our families. We worried about the people in the ditches. We worried about first responders getting to accident scenes on a dark and cold Christmas Eve. We worried about people celebrating the love spread to millions by a refugee whose birth we celebrate every December. We worried about love. We worried with love.
We did not worry about taxes, but if you think about it, everything and everyone we did worry about would be helped by services provided through taxes. The roads had not been cleared—the state and municipal budgets have tight constraints on the amount of salt they can afford. There was only a skeleton crew of first responders out that night—the state and municipal budgets have tight constraints on overtime pay.
My family was safe, and I am eternally grateful for that. We celebrated the birth of a man whose final act before being put to death for spreading love was to denounce the greed of the money changers. If we do the math, we can keep our children safe. What is money but a resource? What good is a resource if it is merely hoarded? We are the wealthiest nation in the history of humankind. We can use our resources to keep people safe.
There may be tears, but making the right decision isn’t always popular. The right decision is not to portray taxes as evil. The right decision is to be a grown up and to explain to the emotional what needs to be done to keep us safe. A good leader could explain how taxes keep our children safe, how taxes keep us all safe.
When we pause to celebrate in December, we are celebrating love, not money. When we do the math, the numbers either add up to love or to nothing.