December 13th, 2010
02:27 PM ET

Letters to the President: #693 'Working on Christmas'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama and I were about twenty feet from each other last night, which I am sure was a thrill for him. Ha! Here’s today’s letter.

Dear Mr. President,

So nice seeing you and the family at the Christmas in Washington concert last night. I noticed you and your older daughter bopping along with Matthew Morrison as he sang “Mele Kalikimaka.” You reminded me of our family, especially since my younger daughter and I were bopping along four rows behind you. It was really nice. (Btw, have you noticed how popular ukuleles seem to be these days?) Ellen DeGeneres did a very nice job hosting, and although I know you had to leave immediately, did you at least get one of those little snowman-crunchy-candy things on a stick? Delicious!

This morning, however, I thought I might be paying for the fun by catching some sort of flu. I had hopped in my car headed to work, and I felt as if I were on fire - sweat beading on my forehead, my face flushing hot, lips dry. Then I noticed that my wife and/or daughter had cranked the heat up as high as it will go on the ride home last night. I could have smelted ore in there. A little adjustment and everything now seems fine.

Of course now it is back to work time. I don’t know how it is for you, but it seems as if elves were in my office just heaving projects onto my desk all weekend. My understanding from fairy tales as a child is that those little goblins at night are supposed to come in and get your work done, not add to it. Oh well.

That said, even in this season of giving and getting gifts, I still like a reasonably healthy dose of work; because, and I know this is a bit of heresy at the moment, I think happiness does not come from wants easily fulfilled, but from work well done. That’s it. One of the pernicious sources of unhappiness in our nation right now, I suspect, is that too many of us over the past couple of decades grew too accustomed to an economy that was kind of like a magic genie; you want something, you wish for it, pull out the credit card, blink your eyes…and there it is!

When I was a boy I wanted a blue snare drum that I saw in a music store. I figured I’d be a great drummer, maybe like the guy keeping time for the band last night. Plus, I really liked how it sparkled. It cost $40, so I started saving money from the work I was doing on farms, some lawn mowing jobs, that sort of thing. And a funny thing happened along the way. As the money grew, the more I came to appreciate the work that went into it. I was proud of my effort and my sense of responsibility. In the end, when I reached $40, having it in the bank meant more to me than the drum. My parents were impressed with my work, savings, and my decision to ultimately forego spending all of that effort on the drum, so at Christmas they bought it for me.

I liked it. I played it a good bit. But even as a kid, I liked more the lesson I’d learned about the joy that comes from earning one’s own way. That was the more important of the two big gifts that year; the drum was wonderful, the fact that my folks made me earn it even more so.

So as busy as I am sure you are today, I hope you enjoy your work this holiday season, especially this year when meaningful work is the only Christmas wish that many families have.

Call if you can.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. K S Verdi, San Antonio, TX

    Dear Mr. Forman,
    Once again, I enjoyed your letter since you always "speak the truth" 😉
    I hope you feel better soon.
    A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours.
    Kirsten Verdi and family

    December 14, 2010 at 8:04 am |
  2. Annie Kate


    You are so right about the satisfaction of doing your job well and of having an appreciation for how much you have to work to accomplish the savings you want for a certain purchase. Our kids should be learning this lesson in their teens like we did. Mostly though they only learn instant gratification as their parents buy them what the wanted. We are short changing our young people by not letting them learn this lesson – as adults the instant gratification turns into crippling credit card debt. This lesson would not only help them as individuals but would help the US go back to being a country of savers instead of just debt ridden spenders.

    December 13, 2010 at 10:27 pm |