If you want a flavor of the remarkable array of individuals who inhabit these villages, all you have to do is read Wednesday Journal's obituaries. The frustrating part is finding out about so many of them when it's too late.
The past year may not have brought peace on earth, goodwill toward men, but it wasn't boring. From Algeria to Syria and points between, the Middle East rose up against generations of oppression. The Arab Spring rippled into Occupy Autumn as social and economic inequality at last made its return to the national radar after a 30-year hiatus.
First things first: Happy holidays to Hanukkah and winter solstice celebrators (and any other festive event you might mark this time of year). Consider yourselves lucky because, for those of us who celebrate it, Christmas is much more ... complicated.
Certain local issues run in cycles. The last time panhandling came up in a big way was 1999 (I wrote about it on Sept. 29 of that year). In the ensuing 12 years, this perennially perplexing moral dilemma hasn't gotten any clearer in my mind.
The camel has always been the drawing card. A real camel. No, really. First Baptist Church has the distinction, every second weekend of December, of being the only place in Oak Park where you can see a live camel.
This is the time of year when those of us who have had our fill of "things" hunger for something more nourishing. Therefore I offer my annual "Early December wisdom for harried Christmas creators and depressed recessioneers," mined from a variety of sources:
People have been condemning incivility for years now. The nation's current "culture war" goes back at least 20 years. At the Republican Convention in 1992, Pat Buchanan famously said, "There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself."
Here we are on the brink of another Thanksgiving, entering the fourth or fifth year of economic downturn (depending on where you mark the beginning), with little hope of an upswing. The system is broken and we're not making much visible progress on fixing it.
Eric Gyllenhaal and his sons, Aaron and Ethan, who live on the 1000 block of South Elmwood in Oak Park, are avid birders. Gail Fisher, Eric's wife and the boys' mom, not so much, though she admires their, well, obsession. But that obsession seems to have been rewarded with a first state of Illinois sighting of the rare Broad-tailed Hummingbird in their backyard on Monday.
Our religion writer, Tom Holmes, a retired Lutheran minister, wrote last week that he doesn't attend the annual Thanksgiving Interfaith Service because he can't pray with people of other faiths. His blog (see OakPark.com) surprised more than a few of us because no one is more open-minded and eager to explore other faiths and faith communities.