Grandpa, what’s a shutdown?

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Elijah with Grandpa: “I don’t like that, Grandpa!”

Watching the news last night, Elijah was worried.

Grandpa! What’s a shutdown?

Well, Elijah, let me think. You’re just eight-months old. Let’s try this. If your Mom decided not to feed you anymore, that would be a shutdown.

Mom’s not going to feed me anymore? Mom and I were on the NEWS?

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Elijah with Mom

No, no, Mom’s not going to shutdown your feeding. She loves you very much. I’m just saying that’s what a shutdown is like.

So, who’s being shutdown?

The government.

What’s a government?

It’s what keeps us together in a democracy.

What’s a democracy?

Actually, I mis-spoke. We’re not a democracy. We’re a democratic Republic, a representative democracy. We govern ourselves by electing people to represent us in Congress and the Presidency.

Did all those people die? Did they get shutdown?

No, Elijah, they’re the ones who are threatening to shutdown the government.

Why, Grandpa?

Because they’ve forgotten why they’re there. They’re confusing government with a sandbox. It’s not. The government belongs to the American people. They’re acting like kindergarteners throwing sand at each other in the kindergarten sandbox. If they keep doing this, there’s be no sand left. The sandbox itself will be gone. It’ll all be shut down.

I don’t like that, Grandpa, and I don’t like the way you’re talking. You’re making fun of kindergarteners!

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Kindergarteners working together in the sandbox

You’re right, Elijah, I shouldn’t make fun of kindergarteners. Kindergarteners are better than that. They’re adults. They’re not acting like children. If they acted like children, we might be better off. Like the psalmist said,

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 82:3)

Thanks, Grandpa. I like the psalmist. Will their Moms shut them down if they shut down the government?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 19, 2018.

Elijah: “Grandpa, What’s Hope?”

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Elijah @ seven-an-half months

Grandpa and Elijah’s conversation about love and faith led to further conversation about hope. Like most conversations between a seven-and-a-half month old grandson and a 75 year old grandfather, it’s a bit convoluted.

Grandpa, now that I know all about love and faith, tell me about hope.

I hope you don’t mind my saying so, Elijah, but you’ll never know all about love or faith or hope, but that’s okay. You’ll learn later how little even the oldest people on the planet know.

We’re on a planet?!!!

The Good, Good Earth: Our Island Home

NASA photo of planet Earth

Yes, we’re on planet Earth.

Wow! Where’s Earth? Will I ever get to go somewhere else?

No, I don’t think so. We’re Earthlings. Earth is our home.

Uh-uh. Edina’s my home! Mom said so. And my daycare’s somewhere else. You’re messing with my brain, Grandpa!

Well, Edina and Chaska aren’t planets. They’re tiny towns on planet Earth in the Milky Way in a vast universe.

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Milky Way galaxy

Mom loves Milky Ways. I hope someday I can have one. I hope Mom will share one of her Milky Ways when I start eating solids.

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Milky Ways

Aha! See, you ALREADY know what hope is!

So hope’s like hunger?

Sort of. I hadn’t thought of it as hunger, but I guess it is in a way. Hope is food for the soul. Hope is desire for something you don’t yet have, or for what you haven’t yet become.

Like being able to walk, right?

Yes. Like that. Hope is always ahead of us. We’re always reaching toward it. Hope requires us to crawl rather than run. It’s a slow crawl. It’s hard. It’s the opposite of despair.

Pretty soon I’ll be done with hope! I’ll just need faith and love, right? I’m going to walk pretty soon. I can just feel it in my bones! I’m certain of it. I don’t need hope!

Yes you do, Elijah. You do. You can’t be certain of anything. You could get hit by a car and die before you learn to walk and talk.

That’s mean, Granda! Why’d you say that? So life is cruel. God’s mean! I’m going be an atheist!

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Hope and Despair

Well, you can be, if you want. But atheism is its own kind of certainty. Certainty is the opposite of faith, Elijah, and, like we already talked about, everyone has some kind of faith. And despair is the opposite of hope. Everyone has some kind of faith and hope. Otherwise we’d be in despair. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.”

Yeah, like the planet. We can’t see the planet, right, Granda? We have faith and hope for the planet, right?

Right. Planet Earth is in danger right now, Elijah. I want you to grow up on the good green Earth the way I did, and I’m sad because I’m afraid you won’t. The Milky Way’s not in danger, but Earth is.

Yeah! I sure hope Mom drives carefully on the way to daycare! I’ll tell her to leave her Milky Ways in tiny Edina. Otherwise Earth might get eaten up!

— Gordon C. Stewart (Grandpa), Chaska, MN, January 13, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White makes right! Right, Grandpa?

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Yesterday’s conversation between seven-and-a-half month old Elijah and Grandpa while Grandpa was oohing-and-awing reading aloud “The Lowest White Man” (Charles M. Blow, NYT, Jan. 11, 2018) in Elijah’s presence. This was before the evening news of the President calling African nations ‘sh**hole nations’.

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Elijah and Grandma Kay

Grandpa, we’re right, right?

About what, Elijah? Right can mean lots of things.

Like what?

It can mean ‘correct’. Right can be a direction, like “turn right” instead of left. In politics right means the opposite of left, like the alt-Right. There’s an old saying that Might makes right, but it doesn’t, Elijah.

Yeah. But we’re right, right?

Sometimes we are. Sometimes we aren’t. And when we aren’t we need to change.

Change what? Mom changes my diapers. Change what? What do you mean ‘we’? Who’s ‘we’?

Well, you heard what Charles M. Blow just said, and Charles Blow wasn’t blowing smoke, Elijah. He spoke the truth, like W.E.B. Dubois and President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Yeah, we’re white, right? That makes us right!

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President Obama, Jan. 5, 2016

No, you’re not white. You’re like President Obama. You weren’t listening to Charles. Listen again:

As President Lyndon B. Johnson said in the 1960s to a young Bill Moyers: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

Trump’s supporters are saying to us, screaming to us, that although he may be the “lowest white man,” he is still better than Barack Obama, the “best colored man.”

(Charles M. Blow, ‘The Lowest White Man’ NYT)

Wow! White doesn’t make right! What’s a colored man, Grandpa? 

  • Gordon C. Stewart (Grandpa Gordon), Chaska, MN, January 12, 2018.

 

 

 

 

Grandpa, what’s faith?

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Grandpa, who’s Faith?

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Elijah reading

She’s our good friend, Elijah. We don’t see her very often. You’ve only met her once. You were too little to remember Faith. You were just a newborn.  Why are you asking about Faith? Was Grandma talking with Faith on the phone?

No. You were just talking about her! Sometimes I wonder, Grandpa. You just said her name! Remember?

Oh, THAT faith! That’s not Faith. That’s faith.

Are you in love with Faith, Grandpa?

No, THAT kind of faith isn’t Faith, it’s right next to love, but it’s not that kind of love.

Grandma says you sometimes preached over peoples’ heads. I asked Grandma what preaching over peoples’ heads means. She told me. I think you’re doing it again in retirement. Grandma says you can’t help yourself. I bet Faith thinks the same thing. That’s why she doesn’t come around anymore.

Elijah, you’re getting a little sassy this morning. That diminishes my faith in our ability to have a good conversation. Maybe we put faith away for awhile until after we’ve taken our naps.

Okay. What’s sassy?

Sassy is smart-alecky, being too big for your britches. It’s not nice. It’s not like love.

I’m sorry, Grandpa. What are britches?

They’re pants. They’re what you wear over your Huggies. Being too big for your britches is like forgetting you’re little.

Okay. What about Hope? Is she coming over?

No, hope isn’t a person. Hope is like the faith Grandpa was reading about this morning. It’s what Paul was talking about: faith, hope, and love.

I don’t mean to be sassy, but Paul wasn’t here this morning! Only Grandma, you, and me, Grandpa!

Oh, not THAT Paul. Not our next door neighbor. This Paul’s been dead now for two thousand years, but he’s still speaking. We still read his letters from Corinth, Galatia, and Ephesus. I was reading from his letter about faith, hope, and love. Remember?

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Probably Valentin de Boulogne – Saint Paul Writing His Epistles – Google Art Project

Yeah. But I still don’t know what faith is. What’s faith?

You know how when you wake up in the morning you trust that Mom’s going to take good care of you? That’s faith. Faith is trust. And faith doesn’t stop after we’re out of our diapers. Faith lasts a lifetime; it’s one of life’s essentials. We all have faith of some sort or another. But like Paul says, it’s still not as great as love. Love’s the best.

“Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love.” – Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 13:13  [CEB]

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I love you, Grandpa, and I have faith in you. But you’re making me really tired. And, because you love me, too, I hope we can take a nap sooner rather than later before things get sassy again.

  • Gordon C. Stewart (Grandpa Gordon) with seven-and-a-half-month-old Grandson, Elijah, Chaska, MN, January 10, 2018.

 

 

 

Elijah: “Grandpa, What’s Love?” (Part 2)

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Elijah, our conversation about love fell short. It missed the boat.

What boat? Were you playing in my bathtub?

No, it’s an expression. To miss the boat means our discussion fell short.

What’s wrong with that? I’m short. So are you, Grandpa!

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Elijah talking with Grandpa about love.

No. Not that kind of short, Elijah. Lots of people are short. Again, it’s just an expression. It means it didn’t quite get where I should have taken the conversation.

Yeah, I love expressions. Let’s stick with expressions. I’m too little for adult conversation.

Well, that’s what I want to talk about. You’re still little, but your view of yourself and the world is being shaped every day by the adult world, and my answer to your question fell short.

Did you fall again, Grandpa? I heard a noise but I didn’t know you fell! You should be more careful on those stairs. Like Grandma says all the time, you should tie your shoelaces!

Okay. No, Grandpa didn’t fall. I mean we never got to the deeper meanings of love. I slipped by stopping short of introducing you to the deeper philosophical meanings of love. I left you with the impression that love is attraction. We never got to agápē. Our culture suffers from a very shallow concept of love.

Oh, boy! Here we go! You’re going to get all philosophical and stuff. Just like Aunt Bonnie says, sometimes you talk over our heads! She hates philosophy. People don’t like that, Grandpa. Grandma says that’s why you retired from preaching. You were missing the boat of clear communication. Grandma was hoping you’d finally tied those shoelaces when you hung up your boots to retire. You didn’t. That’s why you’re still falling!

Aha! You just made my point, Elijah! That’s because Grandma loves me! She doesn’t just love me romantically. That kind of love is eros. She demonstrates agápē love, the highest form of love. It’s the form of love that is unconditional, like the love of God for us. It doesn’t depend on pleasant circumstances. It takes sacrifices to live with me. Big ones! I’m a lot to put up with, Elijah! Every day Grandma goes the second mile.

What’s a mile? If you go there twice, does it make you philosophical?

Yes, it does. Philosophy is wisdom, Elijah. It’s the love of wisdom. All forms of love are important. Philia is important. Eros is important. And agápē is important. They’re all part of who we are as the children of God, grandchildren and grandparents, cousins like you and Calvin, husbands and wives, and neighbors, but, like Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, agápē is the greatest of them all.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love (agapēseis) your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love (agapāte) your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?

— Matthew 5:43-46

Wow, Grandpa!  That’s really hard. That doesn’t miss the boat! That’s really philosophical. So…Grandma already has her reward! I want to be like Grandma. Did Jesus get to retire from preaching, like you?

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Sermon on the Mount — Carl Bloch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, January 8, 2018.

Elijah: “Grandpa, what’s love?”

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Photos of Elijah

Grandpa, everywhere I go people say they love me. What’s love?

If I were wise, I’d take a month to read up on it before answering a big question like that, but I’m not, and instant gratification is too slow for a seven-and-a-half month-old grandson, so I’ll give it a shot.

Thanks, Grandpa, gimme your best shot, but don’t hurt me!

Not that kind of shot, Elijah. It’s just one of those expressions.

Yeah, Mom expresses before I go to daycare.

No, not that kind of expression. “I’ll give it a shot” means “I’ll try.”

Okay, try to give it a shot. What’s love?

Well, Elijah, like Frank Sinatra said, love is a many splendored thing. Love means MANY things to many different people.

Grandpa, you’re not giving me your best shot. You’re using a shot gun. Take out your rifle and give it to me straight! What’s love?

Like I said, it’s one of those words that requires lots of thought. We throw it around to express all kinds of feelings but most of them aren’t really love. Like “I love ice Ben and Jerry’s ice cream” and “I love ‘How to Get Away with Murder'” and ‘I love ‘Sesame Street’ or “I love my ‘Huggies’.

Yeah, like I love Lammie!

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You do, Elijah. You do! You express great affection for Lammie. You have a thing between you. The way you feel about Lammie is the way we all feel about you. Everyone just wants to hold you. You make us feel like children again. Your smile makes us smile. Your laugh makes us laugh.

Yeah, like Barclay makes me laugh. I love Barclay. He’s even better than Lammie. He can give me his paw! I love that! “Sit, Barclay! Sit!” 

Yes, I know. Lammie is a stuffed animal. Barclay’s a real one. He’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He loves you. But he doesn’t love you and you don’t love him because you can order him around, Elijah.

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Barclay the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Remember, no matter how much you love Lammie, now matter how much you love Barclay, and no matter how much I say I love you, I always love you more than that!

Thanks, Grandpa. That’s a many splendid answer. I’ll always love you, too. But I love Mom more! She expresses herself much more clearly than you do!

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, January 7, 2018.

 

 

Elijah’s confusion about buttons

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Elijah is confused by the exchange of words about buttons. The following conversation ensued at Grandpa and Grandma’s.

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Big red buttons and little buttons

Grandpa, what’s a button?

Oh, that’s an easy one, Elijah, Every morning your Mom buttons the buttons, or snaps the snaps, on your clothing after she changes your diapers.

I still don’t know what a button is. Is it a verb or a noun? And what’s a ‘snap’?

Okay. Good point. That wasn’t very clear. You asked a simple question. You deserve a simple answer.

Yeah, simple like in “understandable” — not simple like in “stupid”, like we talked about before. Right?

Right. So . . . put your hand on your chest. You’ll feel several round things. They’re called ‘buttons’. Each one of those round things on your outfit is a button.

Okay! I get it. But bigger buttons are better than little buttons, right, Grandpa? My buttons are little. Yours are better.

No, buttons are just buttons. No matter how big or small they are, they’re equally important. They just do the same thing snaps do. Why?

There you go again, Grandpa! Now we’re back to snaps. Are you losing your mind like President You-Know-Who says Steve Bannon did?

No, Elijah, I’m sorry. Forget the snaps. Why are you asking about big buttons and small buttons?

47B5F7F500000578-5232539-President_Donald_Trump_hit_back_at_North_Korea_after_its_leader_-a-15_1515004349600‘Cause Rocketman and President You-Know-Who are talking like they’re the only ones in the whole world who have buttons and the president says his is bigger and more powerful than Rocketman’s, and that his works.  If all buttons are equal, Grandpa, that’s kind of weird, isn’t it?

It is, Elijah. We’re only four days into the new year and it’s already weirder than it was at the end of 2017. It just keeps getting weirder every day. But before we talk more about buttons I want you to be clear that we don’t insult the leader of another country by calling him ‘Rocketman’.

Yeah, it’s hard to be clear. I’m only seven-and-a-half months old! I’m confused ’cause you’re confusing. Give it to me straight. Is the president incontinent?

Where’d you get the idea the president’s incontinent, Elijah?

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Mika Bryzinsky

They said so on ‘Morning Joe’! Mika said President-You-Know-Who’s doctor could find him incontinent next week during his physical exam. Then they could get rid of him with the 25th Amendment and we wouldn’t have to worry any more.

Elijah, I think you’re confusing ‘incontinent’ with ‘incompetent’, although they seem closely related. A president can be removed from office if he’s declared incompetent to serve.

Anyway.  You asked about buttons. I was wrong about buttons. President You-Know-Who — we don’t call him ‘You-Know-Who’ to insult him; we just don’t want his name to be spoken any more than it already is, if we can help it — and Kim Jong un of North Korea have BIG buttons of a different kind. Each of them has a big RED button. Actually, they aren’t buttons but people call them that! If they push those buttons, they can blow up bombs and kill lots of people.

Why?!!! Why would they want to do that?

We’re all wondering that, Elijah. It seems it’s because the big red buttons make them feel powerful. That’s how it is with some really sick people. They like the idea of snapping their fingers and the world goes poof!

Why? I don’t get it! Why would you want to kill lots of people? That’s mean! Quick, Grandpa, get their mothers on Facebook and tell them they’re incontinent. I mean incompetent. Tell their Moms to change their diapers and then give them clothes with little yellow buttons like mine! Maybe President-You-Know-Who and Kim Jong un will feel better without those big red buttons.

Tell their Mom’s to be like Mom! My Mom’s the best!

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Elijah and his Mom

— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 4, 2017.

 

 

 

Elijah asks about New Year’s

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Elijah asks Grandpa about New Year’s and murder

Grandpa, what’s “murder”?

Oh, my, Elijah, why are you asking about murder on New Year’s Eve? What brought that up?

Marissa, my baby-sitter did. Okay, Grandpa, forget that. What’s a year?

Well, a year is 12 months.

So I’ll be a year older tomorrow?

No. You’re only seven-and-a-half months old.

But tomorrow’s a new year, so I’ll be a year older, right?

No. You can’t be a year older when you’re not yet one year old. You’ll be one year-old on your birthday in four-and-a-half months. Then, a year from your first birthday, you’ll be able to say you’re a year older.

Sometimes you’re really confusing Grandpa! I ask two simple questions and I’m more confused than before I asked you. So the New Year is only for old folks?

new-years-eve-2900120_1280No, it’s for everyone. It just doesn’t have anything to do with being a year older unless you’re already a year old and were born on January 1. But New Year’s isn’t about your birthday. You were born in May.

Okay. So what’s a “new year”? And what’s an old year? Is it like you and me?

It’s not like us, Elijah. It’s different. New Year’s is about hope. It happens every January first, the first day of the new year on the calendar, another 12 months, another 365 days like we’ve never known before. New Year’s is a fresh start! The old year is finished.

No it’s not, Grandpa. What about murder?

This is sounding like a circular argument, Elijah. Somehow you’ve brought us full circle to murder?

Yeah, ‘cause everything got murdered in 2017!

No it didn’t Elijah! You were born in 2017! That’s the opposite of murder. That’s new birth. That’s hope and joy. You’ve brought me joy and hope this last eight months and I hope we have lots of years to talk like this before Grandpa buys the farm.

You’re buying a farm? We already have a cabin. When are you buying the farm?

It’s just an expression, Elijah. “Buying the farm” is a way of talking about death. When you’ve bought the farm, you’re dead.

What’s dead, Grandpa?

It’s like all the stuff that got murdered in 2017 — things like truth — and there’ll be a lot more murders in 2018. But hope springs eternal.

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Yeah! I hope you and truth don’t buy a farm in 2018! Happy New Year, Grandpa!

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, December 31, 2017 (the year of murder)

Elijah and the baby Jesus

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Seven-month-old Grandson, Elijah, spent this afternoon with his Uncle Andrew while his Mom and Grandma went to so something special for Grandma’s birthday.

As Uncle Andrew learned, caring for a child who has just learned to crawl poses new challenges for care-givers. Elijah began to crawl earlier this week.

Last night Elijah arrived early at Grandpa and Grandma’s house for Grandma’s birthday party. We had a quick chat before Uncle Andrew and Aunt Alice arrived with his Elijah’s cousin, Calvin (named after Calvin in “Calvin and Hobbes”).

“Grandpa,” asked Elijah with a puzzled look, “what’s a monster?”

Oh, my! You’re too little to know about monsters, Elijah. Monsters are creepy and ugly and really, really scary!  Who told you about monsters?

Uncle Andrew! He said I was becoming a monster! Am I scary, Grandpa?

Did Uncle Andrew laugh when he said you’re becoming a monster? It sounds like humor.

IMG_9340That’s not funny, Grandpa. I wasn’t being a monster. I was just checking stuff out, like the wires to the television and the computer and the lamps and the door to the apartment, just normal stuff I’ve been wanting to check out for a long, long, long, long time. I wasn’t being a monster. 

Sometimes people like Uncle Andrew are kidding with you, Elijah. Like when you surprise them by crawling and getting into things your Mom, Grandma, Uncle Andrew and I didn’t have to worry about before you started crawling.

Whew! So baby Jesus was a monster, too, in Bethlehem. We love Jesus, right Grandpa?

We do, Elijah. But Jesus didn’t become a monster in Bethlehem. He learned to crawl somewhere in Egypt after Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt to escape from King Herod who wanted to kill him (Gospel of Matthew 2:13-23).

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William Blake ( 1757- 1827) — “The Flight into Egypt” (c.1799)

Wow, that’s awful, Grandpa! Why would a king want to kill a baby? Either King Herod was a real monster or he thought baby Jesus was a scary monster. I’m crawling but I guess I still have lots to learn before I can walk and talk like you, Grandpa.

It’s part of the pattern, Elijah. Like the Christmas Carol we heard this morning on NPR from the King’s College Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols says,

For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us, He grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles, like us He knew;
And He cares when we are sad,
And he shares when we are glad.

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, Grandma Kay’s birthday, Dec. 23, 2017.

Elijah asks Grandpa about taxes

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taxreformGrandpa, do we like taxes?

Why are you asking about taxes, Elijah?

‘Cause they’re all over the news. I don’t get it. Are taxes bad or are they good, Grandpa?

It all depends, Elijah.

You always say stuff like that! Depends on what? I wear Huggies!

We’ve already talked about that. I don’t mean that kind of Depends. I mean it depends on what kind of taxes.

Yeah, like the tax of Caesar Augustus that made Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem. Mom’s been getting me ready for my first Christmas. Look at this picture of Caesar Augustus, Grandpa. He did the same thing with his hand president You-Know-Who does! And he didn’t care about that little baby. Maybe that little baby is Jesus!

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And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. – Gospel According to Luke 2:1-6 KJV.

Yes, Elijah, it was because of a Roman census for purposes of levying Roman taxes on the country they occupied. The tax system wasn’t fair.

Hmmm. So taxes are bad!

No, they’re not. Like I said, Elijah, it all depends.

On what?

On whether the taxes are fair. Taxes are good so long as they fairly distribute the financial burden for maintaining life together in a good society: things like health care, roads, fire-fighters like the ones battling the fires in California, and economic assistance for the disabled, children, the poor, and retired people like Grandma and Grandpa who depend like Social Security.

So fair taxes are good? Unfair taxes are bad?

Yes, sort of. Tax systems that don’t require the wealthy to pay their fair share are like Roman taxes and like the British taxes that caused the American Revolution. The tax wasn’t fair. And tax systems measure what a country values. So even if the tax burden is fairly distributed, they can be bad if the money is used badly.

Yeah, just like Mary said, “He lifted up the lowly, and the rich he has sent empty away!” Liddle Bob Corker is lowly but he just voted for tax reform that Marissa says isn’t fair.

Yes, he did, Elijah. Senator Corker was a hold-out who agreed to vote for the tax bill after it was amended in a way that favored his real estate interests so he wouldn’t be so little anymore.

You own real estate, right? Are you going to vote for the tax bill, Grandpa?

No, Elijah, I really don’t own any real estate. The bank owns Grandma and Grandpa’s condo. We still make mortgage payments. And I don’t get to vote on it. Members of the House of Representatives and Senate represent us in Congress. Only they get to vote, and the president can then sign it or veto it.

Hmm. So you’re going to be liddler than liddle Bob Corker. But in my eyes, you’ll always be big, Grandpa. Remember Joseph and Mary and Jesus in liddle old Bethlehem.

I will, Elijah. Here’s a more hopeful picture for you to remember. Mary and the baby Jesus are at the top. At the bottom are prophetess named Sybil and Caesar Augustus, but it doesn’t look anything Caesar. It’s the Byzantine emperor Manuel II from the 15 Century that the artist viewed as the new Caesar. Every empire has its emperor, and every one of them is soon forgotten, but the story of Christmas is eternal.

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

— Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, Dec. 20, 2017.