One of the best (and worst if one is not used to being humble) aspects of our current situation (business took a nose dive, looking for work) is the number of people who show their love to us by sacrificially giving us gifts. It is just amazing.
Recently, that charity included a McDonald’s gift card. I think that was an awesome gift, because it addressed one of the most intense pressures anyone feels when one is given help: What do you get to spend the money on?
Frankly, nothing causes more strain than trying to figure out what one can do with what one has been given. Towards the end of the year, the kids were “given” class field trips that were almost purely recreational and required money from us. Do we opt out? (We didn’t?) We have opted out of lots of other things (no more TV that isn’t free or DVDs). But this issue keeps coming up. It is hard. (Though someone at the school found out what we were going through and, among other kindnesses, someone voided an expense check and sponsored the outing him- or herself–I have no idea who).
And it isn’t something the Bible addresses because life was utterly different. Charity used to always include recreation but not as a budget item:
You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress. You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to the Lord your God at the place that the Lord will choose, because the Lordyour God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.
This was probably the most intense feast, but it was not the only one. (Side remark: when Plutarch discussed which god the Hebrews worshiped, his conclusion was Dionysius/Bacchus, based on the worship and lifestyle they witnessed). It was one of the three national religious festivals and was complemented by local ones as well. This was in addition to a third of the required tithe:
When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled, then you shall say before the Lord your God, “I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all your commandment that you have commanded me. I have not transgressed any of your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. I have not eaten of the tithe while I was mourning, or removed any of it while I was unclean, or offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the Lord my God. I have done according to all that you have commanded me. Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
So plainly, the idea here was that holiness and sharing went hand in hand and that one was blessed with prosperity as one gave away.
But we don’t really do parties any more, or at least they are always peripheral to the meaning of the word “recreation” in the way we think. Part of the industrial revolution with its technological breakthroughs and the division of labor means we never get together and sing (and churches are more and more getting rid of this in favor of performances). It is alien. Recreation is having professional musicians available 24/7 through individually owned technology. It is video game consoles and dvd players. And it is often the kids trained to beg all the time for the excitement of Chuck E. Cheese or the big clown of the “happy meal.”
And it is continual guilt about how you spend your money if you are “between jobs.” With all the blessings of the division of labor and economic individualism, there are also new liabilities for people who fall into the shadow.
(I mentioned how rapidly this has changed. In the original Star Trek it was completely normal for Uhura to sit in the rec room with a Lyre (or Vulcan equivalent) and sing songs to a group. A lonely engineer on another deck got as much comfort as he could by using the intercom to listen in and pretend he was with them. In the late sixties this was still taken for granted as a way of living. No one thought it was dorky. No one thought the world would be better served by an MP3 player with several gigs of flash memory surgically implanted into a person’s brain, which I’m sure will be normal in the 22nd century. We get cut off from each other in ways we don’t realize, and when some experience the liabilities, it is hard to even figure out what is going on.)
Here’s another example (from one of the scariest episodes). Even the Vulcan’s enjoyed music!