Outdoors: Simple gifts are the best gifts

Jay Anglin

When people talk about how great it was growing up in a small town I can’t help but to smile a little. Wabash, Indiana, was as a good a place as any to grow up and most definitely better than average.

Life was fairly simple back then and we really didn’t need much to keep us active. Depending on the season, we had ballgames to play, bicycles to ride or sledding to do. We stomped in the creek and caught crawdads in the summer, and we built snow forts in the winter. The Atari was a fun distraction but our lives certainly didn’t center around video games.

Unbeknownst to us the economy was terrible at the time and many struggled to make ends meet. The battle may be familiar to our parents and grandparents, but unfortunately, now a huge segment of an entirely new generation has joined the fight. Yet, somehow Americans manage to spend more and more money on shopping during the holidays. Many of us know better, but apparently, we can’t help ourselves.

I doubt too many young adults realize how tough it can be as it seems like the majority take things for granted. Just take a look at those change dishes at the local gas station after school gets out and you’ll see all kinds of “silver,” including quarters. I guess unless it’s a bill, money doesn’t mean all that much to them. The youth and young adults of today have been coddled and cared for in a way that will likely make the stark reality of real life nearly impossible for them to endure. I wonder what will happen when they are “in charge”?

Most of them have been to exposed to things that were unimaginable only a couple of decades ago. I fear for their ability to deal with low-adrenaline, mundane subject matter which often accompanies a career and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Some of the human resources people I guide have some incredible stories — Millennials kicking their feet up on the desk and doing nothing or complaining that they wanted an office with view of the city, on the first day of a new job.

We can only hope that they come to their senses quickly and make the best of living in what still is the best country on Planet Earth. Stop complaining and get after it! While you’re at it, read some history on how we got here, not just the bull crap that pops up on your social media feed. And, take a walk outside once in a while — there’s an entire world out there many of you are missing. Respect your elders and realize that life has never been easy street for any generation and never will be.

The struggles of life batter many of us to the point that we become completely numb to them. I know when I’m stressed out I like to think back to the simple times when my biggest concern was whether or not a bike ride across town with my buddies ended within reasonable range of home so I could make it back in time for dinner. I think of it as “regression therapy.”

It’s inevitable that some of the best memories are centered around the holidays. My Christmas dreams came true when I was 12 years old: A 20 gauge Remington 870 Wingmaster pump shotgun was under the tree. I’ve written about this gun many times in this column but I will say this, if one thing was responsible for my intense interest in hunting, that old pump gun is it. As I type this I can glance over at it in my gun case and though it shows signs of thorough use, it’s in amazingly good condition and I still hunt with it regularly.

That’s the kind of gift that not only keeps on giving but potentially changes the course one’s life. There are so many things that we all need. Holiday gifts are a no-brainer for big families with lots of kids; jeans, shirts, shoes and socks — a nice coat — things that we truly need to live our everyday lives. Toys are usually ephemeral in nature. They may only last a few days but toys are why little kids stare out the window after bedtime on Christmas Eve in hopes of seeing Santa glide into the neighborhood.

That’s assuming there are still a bunch of kids that believe in Santa Clause? A couple of mine do. The birth of Christ may be the reason for Christmas but without Santa a lot of kids would feel less magic.

I, for one, still feel that magic every time I pick up that shotgun that kickstarted my never-ending journey into the world of the outdoorsman. It could’ve been anything, it didn’t have to be a gun. But, for me, that’s the gift that shaped my life.

Our gifts may have a deeper meaning some day and possibly change somebody’s life. We all need new socks but when my kids are 47 years old I can only hope that something I’ve given them will bring the magic back.

And, a gift doesn’t even have to be an item — it can also be an act. It can even be ourselves. The truth of the matter is, the greatest gift we have is each other. Regardless of religious persuasion, we share this place with each other. Give love, respect and thanks. Happy Holidays.

Jay Anglin writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Argus. Write to him at jay@anglinoutdoors.com.

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