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December 10, 2008

Buying Time

Lora Maybe it's the holiday or maybe it's just me, but it seems that everyone is getting along lately.  I've had amazing conversations with strangers on the bus nearly every day for two weeks.  People are saying hello on the streets, holding doors for one another, letting people cut in line at the Acme.  Our toy and coat drives at work have more donations than ever.  Volunteering is up at the shelters and community centers where I work.  WMMR announced this morning that they received literally tons and tons (and tons and tons and tons) of food donations.

I live in a working/middle class neighborhood in South Philadelphia.  While people are generally cordial to one another, my neighbors have been downright friendly lately.  I work in the worst neighborhoods in the city.  The kind that most people only see on the evening news and in movies.  The kind where it doesn't pay to be nice, because "nice" is perceived as "weak".  But lately things have been turning around.  People are helping each other.  Sharing food with those that are hungry.  Sharing blankets and warm houses with those who are cold.  It is incredible what is going on in our town right now.

People scoff at the notion of Brotherly Love.  But it's here.  You can't find it on the news, you won't find it in the papers.  You  may not find it anywhere unless you really pay attention because we are, after all, Philadelphians and we tend to be a bit gruff about things.  Our smiles might not be sparkley, but our intentions are.

My favorite thing about living in Philadelphia that I have never experienced anywhere else is not the convenience of everything, not the sub-$1K in property taxes I pay each year, the total lack of yard work, nor the amazing abundance of imported cheeses.  It's the brotherhood we forge in times of extremes.  The way we rally around the weather because it is always either 100 degrees or 10 degrees.  When it's 100 we take care of our elders and our dogs and our babies.  We give away fans and air conditioners.  We tap the fire hydrants for the kiddies.  When it's 10 we donate our sweaters, and drop blankets and hot plates of food off with the homeless guys in our neighborhood.  Where else do you have to drive for miles to find a homeless person who doesn't have more than enough quilts and needs a good meal?  When our team wins (Go Phils!) we are all winners.  When our team craps out, we all hate them.  When our local government is good it is very, very good.  But when it is bad, it is horrid.  We love our food, we love our museums, we hate our traffic and our bus schedules.  We take pride in what is collectively ours and we give the finger to what is not.  There is always something to care about, always something to talk about, and we do it together.  We do it at the store, at the bar, at the park.  On a bus, on the train, in an elevator.  We all manage to have something to come together for.  I dare you to try to be lonely in Philadelphia.  I dare you to be alone.

Unfortunately, these days we are all going broke.  Every one of us.  Whether you are making one million dollars a year or one thousand you are feeling the pinch.  My husband and I are incredibly lucky to have careers that seem to be insulated from the recession.  Today.  Our neighborhood appears relatively stable, but the line waiting to get into the corner bar at 8am is getting longer and longer as the weeks go by.  Those of us going to work look at the queue of our unemployed neighbors and hope we aren't holding up the tail end of it next month.  We hope we aren't waiting in the cold with a red pen and the classified ads. 

But there is an upside, it is bringing us together.  We aren't as stressed about the holidays because we have all decided to downsize Santa's load.  Shopping hours and credit card bills aren't racking up so fast.  We are having fun this year!  Real happy holiday fun!  For free!  We are able to actually focus on what the holiday means to us and realizing that no matter which holidays we celebrate, the true meaning can't be found under a tree or in the bottom of a pocketbook.  We are planning to spend time with our family and our friends rather than spend money on them.  We are sharing meals with people we love.  We are sitting down with our children to make handmade gifts rather than dropping them with whomever will take them so we can go shop for store bought things.  We are relying on one another to survive- financially, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  We are finally seeing past the end of our noses, because we are taking them out of our wallets and looking around for the first time in more than twenty years.

I wish you all a very happy holiday season, and my fingers are crossed for a prosperous New Year.  May you find the time to take some time to spend with your loved ones and still love them at the end of it all.  I hope we continue to grow closer as families, as neighbors, as countrymen while we struggle through these tough days.  Together.

This is an original post to the Philadelphia Moms Blog.  Lora also blogs at Jakezilla and Oh, the Urbanity!.

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