Before the holidays, fellow old-timer Barbara Rath and I were looking forward to that lovely gift of time that Father Dease gave employees – two additional days off at Christmas. Barbara, who has been in the Records Office even longer than I have been here, told me about the last time St. Thomas closed for extra days over the holidays. This was in the really good old days of the energy crisis of the ’70s. Like many other colleges, St. Thomas closed and turned off the heat during that period.
As we reminisced, visions of cars idling their engines in long gas lines came back to me. There was a gasoline rationing scheme back then. On even-numbered days of the month, only motorists with even-numbered licensed plates could fill their tanks. “Odd” motorists topped off the tank on odd days. Cross country trips had to be carefully planned with gas stations and license plate coordination.
From that time, I also remember the dark Christmases. To save energy, businesses and households refrained from putting up Christmas lights. With an even worse recession currently looming, some people are suggesting similar economies this year. From bare trees to severe spending cutbacks, a spirit of austerity is recommended.
But what happens if we turn off our lights? Nothing very good in 1973. Certainly, idling engines in gas lines saved no scarce barrels of oil. And don’t even get me started on what wage and price controls did to struggling family turkey farmers in Arkansas. What happens if we all tighten our belts this season? The economy and our spirit deteriorate further. We may choke the life out of ourselves.
Spirit and brightness are important – especially the spirit of the season.
Lights do not have to siphon energy and damage the environment. Lights do not have to cost anything. Lights can be LED. Lights can be a smile and a cheerful greeting. Lights can be in your heart.