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Tony Zizza

When Sacrifice Turns Into Virtue
By Tony Zizza
Nov 24, 2008 - 7:44:59 PM

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I enjoyed Bonna Johnson's article in The Tennessean, ("Treats For Kids Are Last To Go", November 16th) very much. And for a plethora of reasons. Some of the reasons are self evident in Johnson's well written article. Others are just some things you are grateful for taking away from an insightful look at family and sacrifice.

Here's something worth thinking about during these trying times. What does it really mean for an entire family to make economic sacrifices? Are there winners and losers in such a situation? Why does it always take tough times for families to finally get their economic picture in focus? Can love and understanding grow stronger when the chips are down?

I believe that when sacrifice turns into a virtue, we all win.

When every family member is temporarily willing to lower economic expectations so the family can still thrive, quite often they find that they're just as happy - with less. It's certainly no mystery that a majority of American families are over-indulged and a walking definition of duplicity. There's nothing virtuous about going into debt and spending less time with your own family just to keep up with what your neighbor might be doing. When this happens, the big picture becomes extremely fuzzy.

We need to keep the big picture in mind when it comes to the danger of over-indulging kids. I completely agree with Middle Tennessee State University psychology professor Ellen Slicker who was quoted in the article as saying, "They grow up with the expectation that this way of life will continue. That when they're teens, they'll have the fastest cars and the most video games." Slicker hits a home run here. Teens in my view are old enough to understand they're not immune from the much needed reality of adhering to a family budget.

There's much more that needs to be talked about. Young children and teens aren't nearly grateful enough for all they receive. Sadly, it's their parents who are mostly to blame for not teaching and demanding that early on they send out thank you cards to family members and others who give them gifts. Perhaps these trying times we find ourselves in will force parents in some way to return themselves and their kids to the basics.

We all could benefit from a return to the basics. A place where families sacrifice for each other when it is needed. Interestingly, it's not really a sacrifice to help out those you supposedly love. If you love someone and they are hurting through no fault of their own, it's not a sacrifice to help them so long as you do not wind up worse off than they are. Again, these trying times test us to come to terms with who we love and who we don't.

So, enough of worrying about kids this year who might (and very well should) receive fewer Christmas gifts. I doubt they will wind up in therapy over it. Most kids would rather have more time with their parents than just another gift card or swimming lesson. Kids are craving to be taught virtue. And to see it in action.

Let's not forget that right now our own parents need our economic and emotional help. Now that we're grown, it shouldn't feel like a sacrifice to help ease their worries. Instead, it should be a virtue exercised with pleasure and a respect that should be properly returned to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in their lives to ensure we turned out right.

Tony Zizza is a free-lance writer who lives in Hermitage, Tennessee. He writes frequently about family and popular culture. Reach him via email:

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