In an Over-Communicated, Intrusive World, Simple is Better
Ed

Yes, Virginia, There
Is a Santa Claus

 
Copyright © 2007
by Ed Bagley

(Editor’s Note: The following editorial by Francis P. Church was first published in The New York Sun in 1897 in response to an
8-year-old girl’s letter to the editor, and is arguably the most famous editorial ever written in an American newspaper. This incredible piece of writing happened when newspapers were the primary means of communication. In 1897 there was no mass communication by radio, television, computers, cell phones and the associated technical goodies we have today. Readers actually believed and trusted in newspapers. Now we do not believe and trust in newspapers anymore than we do in politicians.)

Here is how Francis P. Church responded to Virginia O’Hanlon’s letter:

“We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except (in what) they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal (supernal means “of exceptional quality or extent”) beauty and glory beyond.

Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

About the Exchange
Francis P. Church’s editorial, “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” was an immediate sensation, and went on to became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It first appeared in The New York Sun in 1897, more than a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business.

Thirty-six years after her letter was printed, Virginia O’Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter:

“Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little boys and girls said there wasn’t any Santa Claus,
I was filled with doubts.
I asked my father, and he was a little evasive on the subject.

It was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word or some question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father would always say, ‘If you see it in the The Sun, it’s so,’ and that settled the matter.

‘Well, I’m just going to write The Sun and find out the real truth,’ I said to father.

He said, ‘Go ahead, Virginia. I’m sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does’.”

And so Virginia sat down and wrote her parents’ favorite newspaper.

Her letter found its way into the hands of a veteran editor, Francis P. Church. Son of a Baptist minister, Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and had worked on the The New York Sun for 20 years, more recently as an anonymous editorial writer.

Church, a sardonic man, had for his personal motto, “Endeavour to clear your mind of cant.” When controversial subjects had to be tackled on the editorial page, especially those dealing with theology, the assignments were usually given to Church.

Now, he had in his hands a little girl’s letter on a most controversial matter, and he was burdened with the responsibility of answering it.

“Is there a Santa Claus?” the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church knew that there was no avoiding the question. He must answer, and he must answer truthfully. And so he turned to his desk, and he began his reply that was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history.

Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in 1906, leaving no children.

Virginia O’Hanlon went on to graduate from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following year she received her Master’s from Columbia University, and in 1912 she began teaching in the New York City school system, later becoming a principal. After 47 years, she retired as an educator.

Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.

Clason’s “The Richest Man in Babylon” Part 2 – The 7 Cures for a Lean Wallet and The 5 Laws of Money

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Part 1 of this 2 Part series ends the synopsis of George Clason’s book “The Richest Man in Babylon,” but Clason raises an important question: Why should
so few men be able to acquire so much gold?

The answer is because they know how.

One may not condemn a man for succeeding because he knows how. Neither may one with justice take away from a man what he has fairly earned, to give to men of less ability.

And so it was that the good king of Babylon sought out the richest man in Babylon to teach to others in his kingdom the secrets of his success.

This is a synopsis of what the richest man taught to the people
of Babylon:

The Seven Cures for a Lean Wallet

1) Start your wallet to fattening. Save one-tenth of all you earn. Remember that a part
of all I earn is mine to keep. Do this faithfully. Do not let the simplicity of this escape you.

When I ceased to pay out more than nine-tenths of my earnings,
I got along just as well.
I was not shorter than before, and, money came to me more easily than before.

2) Control your expenses. How is it that all do not earn the same yet all have lean wallets? Here is the truth: That which each of us calls our “necessary expenses” will always grow to equal our incomes unless we protest to
the contrary.

Confuse not necessary expenses with desires. We all have more desires than our earnings can gratify. Examine which of the accepted expenses of living can be reduced or eliminated. Let your motto be 100% of appreciated value demanded for every dollar spent.

Budget your expenses so that your actual necessities are met without spending more than nine-tenths of your earnings.

3) Make your money multiply. Protect your growing treasure by putting it to labor and increasing. Money in your wallet earns nothing. Money that we earn from our money is but a start; it is the earnings generating earnings that builds fortunes.

When the richest man in Babylon loaned money to the shield maker to buy bronze, he said this: “Each time I loaned money to the shield maker, I loaned back also the rental he had paid me. Therefore not only did my capital increase, but its earnings likewise increased.”

4) Guard your money from loss. Everyone has an idea of how to make quick money; few, however, have the evidence of making money to justify their idea, scheme or offer of quick riches. The first sound principle of investment is security for your principal.

Before you loan your money to any man assure yourself of his ability to repay your loan, and of his reputation to do so. Make no one a present of your hard-earned treasure.

Consult the wisdom of those experienced in handling money for profit. Such advice is often freely given for
the asking, and may possess more value than the amount you
are about to invest.

5) Make your home a profitable investment. When you can set aside only nine-tenths of what you earn to live, and can use a part of that nine-tenths to improve the investment in your housing, do it; owning your own home is also an investment that grows with your wealth.

Your family deserves a home they can enjoy and call their own. It builds a sense of stability and well-being.

6) Ensure a future income. Build income-producing assets that do not require you to work forever. We will all grow old and die.

You should prepare a suitable income for the days to come when you are no longer younger and cannot work as hard, and to make preparations for your family should you no longer be with them to comfort and support them. Provide in advance for the needs of your growing age, and the protection of your family.

7) Increase your
ability to earn.
Desire precedes accomplishment, and the desire must be strong and definite. When you have backed your desire for saving $1,000 with the strength and purpose to secure it, you can then save $2,000.

Desires must be simple and definite. Desires defeat their own purpose when they are too many, too confusing, or too difficult to accomplish. Cultivate your own powers to study and become wiser, more skillful, and more productive.

Here is more sage advice from Clason’s masterpiece on financial matters:

The 5 Laws of Money

If you had to choose, would you choose tons of money or wisdom? Most men would take the money, ignore the wisdom, and waste the money. Here is the wisdom:

1) Money comes gladly and in increasing quantities to any man who will put aside not less than one-tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and the future of his family.

2) Money labors diligently and contently for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment, multiplying unto itself in infinity if kept working diligently. Money multiplies itself in surprising fashion.

3) Money clings to
the protection of the cautious owner who invests it with the advice of men wise
in its handling.

4) Money slips away from the man who invests it in businesses or purposes that he is not familiar with, or which are not approved by those skilled in its keep. The inexperienced handler of money who trusts his own judgment, and puts his money in investments which he is not familiar, always pays with his money for his experience.

5) Money flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings, or who follows the alluring advice of tricksters and schemers, or who
trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.

Here is the hard lesson of the 5 Laws of Money: You cannot measure the value of wisdom in bags of money. Without wisdom, those who have it quickly lose money, but with wisdom, money can be secured by those who have it not.

This ends the condensation.

Sometimes as parents we forget how simple and subtle the lessons in life can be.

I was reminded of this yesterday afternoon when I heard the cheering of youngsters playing a Little League baseball game in the nearby city park. It is amazing when the noise of kids at play can carry the sound a half-block away and into the open window of your living room.

Little League baseball games can get noisy. Kids are excited when the bases are loaded and their next hitter sends a screaming line drive into the outfield.

They know that the outfielder will likely boot the ball, and as it gets by him on its merry way to the fence, all three players on base will score and the hitter will probably come home safe with an inside-the-park home run and 4 ribbies (runs batted in) to his credit.

Ah, baseball, spring is in the air and summer is approaching.

The pure fun of sport is so normal and so natural to our human experience.

I read a study once that interviewed hardened criminals spending life in prison for capital crimes, such as murder. A psychologist asked inmates what they missed most now that they were spending the rest of their lives behind bars without possibility of parole.

The answer stunned me, and it should stun you too. What they missed most was not their girlfriend, or sex, or drinking, or drugging, or gambling; it was the sound of kids playing. Perhaps the one, real, positive memory they have of their life was when they were a child playing.

These are two compelling extremes: children at play without a care in the world, and incarcerated criminals who are burdened with the reality that they will never again be free to play.

With all of the violence we are now seeing with youngsters who solve their supposed “problems” by shooting their perceived “enemies” (many times friends and family), I am reminded that some of our children today seem less able to cope with adversity, and even less so with patience.

How is it that they clearly lack coping skills and patience, two necessary traits for survival as an adult?

It will take someone a lot smarter than me to give you the right answer to this question.

I will leave that answer to what some educated professionals who study psychology think.

In the meantime, I choose not to tell you what I think, but to share with you what I know.

Here is one thing about Little League baseball that is being taught by some parents and some leaders in some organizations that is really not worth teaching, and that is this:

Certain organizations have adopted the misguided practice of rewarding every kid on each team regardless of their effort or performance. In other words, a team can lose every game all year and each kid gets a trophy for participating, a team picture and his or her own baseball card with their mug on it.

Apparently some parents do not want to hurt their child’s feelings even though the child makes little effort, is clearly incompetent at improving on any skills of the game, does not understand the game, and really could care less.

I doubt the parents in the example given have a clue about the lessons they are teaching their children by insisting on this foolish practice of making their child feel like he or she has accomplished something.

First, they are encouraging mediocrity by rewarding nothingness. Practice this stupidity a few more generations and we will have our children thinking they can show up to work as an adult, do nothing and get paid for their lack of skills, effort and production.

Second, they are rewarding children for having no concept of goal-setting and achieving goals. The parents are not encouraging any concept of self-improvement and providing no incentive to do so.

Third, they are teaching no learning skills in how to cope with failure, and not providing a shred of understanding about the function of failing. Losers would be astonished to learn that successful people have failed more than losers ever thought of failing.

One of the big differences between losers and winners in the game of life is that when winners fail, they get right back up, dust themselves off, learn from the experience, and try again.

Fourth, they devalue the kids who do work hard, fail and then succeed by rewarding a bunch of kids who haul off and do nothing, learn nothing, and have no sense of real accomplishment.

I remember going door-to-door as a 9-year-old kid, looking for a sponsor for a baseball team I was putting together. I instinctively knew kids would want to be on my team if I could get them a free baseball hat and shirt; we would then look like a real team. I had played on a team that had nothing; we could not afford uniforms, we were lucky to have a glove or borrow a glove.

I found that sponsor, a business called Jewell Realty in Flint, Michigan. I found a sponsor because I was looking for a sponsor. The people that owned that business were impressed that a 9-year-old kid would have the guts to walk all over town and ask businesses to sponsor his rag-tag team. I put up with the nos and getting kicked out of places because I wanted it that bad.

The year was 1953 and we were terrible; we lost more games than we won. We were put upon, put down, slapped around and got the crap kicked out of us, but I never quit, and I made sure my teammates didn’t quit either. When someone quit trying, I kicked him off the team and found someone else.

Two years later we won the league championship, and when we did, I was surrounded by winners who had become my friends. I did not need my parents to do this for me, I did not need some meddling adult or juvenile counselor to do this for me, I needed to do this for myself.

When I got the guys together and we took that trophy down to Jewell Realty, we all shared in the excitement of being winners. Later that summer I would walk by Jewell Realty, see that trophy in the window, and know who I was and what I had become: a winner. Jewell Realty did not win that trophy, I won that trophy, and I knew what it would take to win another.

Our parents never saw us play, they were too busy working.

If someone had come around after that first season and given each of us a trophy for losing, we would not have accepted it. Think about it: the message they would have been sending us was we think you are so bad that you could never win a title, so in order to sooth your precious little feelings, here is a trophy for being a loser.

I think I would have spit in their face. I was that competitive. I might have been a 9 year old but I did not need some meddling parent setting goals for me that I thought were so low I would trip on them walking across the baseball diamond.

If you think a 9-year-old child cannot have some dignity, you are dead wrong, and have probably been wrong about a lot of things in your life.

Once we won that championship and experienced our moment of victory, you could have taken that trophy away and it would not have mattered. I knew what I had sacrificed to win that trophy, and after all of the blood, sweat and tears, nothing any stupid parent or adult could do would have made me feel less about myself. I knew I was a winner, and I wasn’t going to settle for anything less.

Parents, if you do not understand one thing in raising your children, understand this: if your child goes through his or her entire schooling period (kindergarten through high school graduation) and never experiences real success at anything at least one day is his or her life, your child will be handicapped for life. Nothing could be more arcane, stupid and bovine.

Don’t you dare try to prevent your child from failing. Let them try and when they fail, pick them up, dust them off, and encourage them to try again. It is in failing that we learn to succeed.

If you as a parent cannot be a winner in your own pathetic life, if all you have to offer is whining and complaining about this and that, and bemoaning how your child is treated, then get the hell out of the way and let your child fail to ultimately win on his own.

Take a snapshot of two pictures.

In one a child is given a trophy, a team photo and a baseball card with his picture on it featuring a loser who accomplished nothing. In the other snapshot, a child is given only a trophy, or the team is given one trophy to admire, because they have worked their butts off, improved their skills, played their hearts out, taken risks and won a league title. Which is your child?

Any child who has worked to get to the top of the mountain, and experiences the sheer joy of competing and winning, is someone who will go much farther in life.

I can tell you from experience in hiring that there is an incredible correlation between having athletic success at the high school or college level and success later in life. The reason is simple: winners win and losers don’t.

Do not misunderstand what I am sharing here. It is not that you cannot win bigger and better in life unless you are a successful athlete in your youth, it is that you need to have a sense of accomplishment and recognition doing something that takes hard work, dedication, effort and goals. It could be singing, it could be acting, it could be playing a musical instrument; suffice to say any activity that allows you to fail, learn, improve and succeed over a period of time.

It certainly helps to have a strong father in the house to help teach his children what it is to be a winner, to learn coping skills, patience, hard work, dedication, effort, improvement and success. A strong single mother can do the same.

Do not play patty-cake with your children when they are 9 years old, do not knowingly set them up in life to fail, let them struggle and succeed. If you do not do this someday they will be adult and not know how to act when they are put down, put upon, made fun of and beaten up emotionally. They will figure it out if you do not protect them and their feelings so much they become helpless and inept.

They will learn to cope and be stronger for the experience. When they reach adulthood they will be able to dismiss people around them who have mediocre minds and are mental midgets. They will be polite as they treat these losers as irrelevant (which they are) and be unaffected by their negative presence.

Then they will move on quickly to be with the winners. It is the losers who are left standing alone and wondering why.

Do not play to participate, play to win. It is not winning that is the be all to end all, it is that in the process of winning we learn important skills that make us much more effective in playing and winning in the game of life. After all, life is not a resting place; life is a testing place, it is now and will continue to be as long as you live.

A wise man said it and it bears repeating here: When everyone is somebody then no one’s anybody.

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The First Time I Had Witnessed a Miracle

 

(Ed’s Note: This article was written in 1976, 44 years ago, on the occasion of my daughter’s birth, and was first published in The Lacey Leader, the newspaper
I owned and operated for
8 years. As a Christian,
I celebrate the Resurrection of Christ rising from the dead this Easter Sunday so that all who believe might have eternal life. It is a joy for me to recount this miracle with you, recognizing that the birth of life is both a miracle and mystery to be cherished among all of our living experiences.)

Copyright 1976
by Ed Bagley

I have lived on this Earth 31 years, but Saturday night was the first time
I had ever seen a miracle.

It started in the dead of sleep at 5 a.m. For four hours I slept on like a newborn baby. It was nothing unusual for me—
the freight train that cuts Patterson Lake in two could detour through our bedroom, and I would probably not wake up.

Inside Annette—while I cut through zees like rewrite copy—a slow stirring began. Soon it became sharp pains. Finally I woke at 9 a.m. to greet the new day and found out Annette had been up at 5 wondering if her time had come. It had.

We checked into St. Peter Hospital at 11 a.m. and began an even longer wait. Soon it was 1 p.m., then 3 and 5 and 7 and 9 and her labor continued. The baby was not in the right position, and Annette spent a good deal of time figuring out how to push when the contractions came.

It was a struggle we went through together, her frank cries of anguish and my dispassionate encouragement. I could not have become emotionally involved, or it would have been all over for me. I wanted to see everything.

Finally monitors were put on her to play out the frequency of the contractions and the frequency of the baby’s heartbeat. A steady blip, blip, blip played across the face of the machine and, to the right, numbers changed every few seconds, telling the baby’s heartbeat per minute. Eventually medicine was used to help induce the contractions.

After 17½ hours, Annette went to the delivery room and I was right behind her. Inside, as Dr. Krug exhibited a totally calm, professional demeanor, I watched as the baby’s head pushed into the new world.

Dr. Krug noted that the cord had a knot and then, with one final push, Kristin Ann came into the world and nothing could hold back Annette’s elation and tears, and Kristin’s cry for survival.

Kristin was bright and alert to the momentous occasion; she immediately opened her eyes and let us know she was here—it must have been a tremendous struggle for her too.

I sat stunned, not giving in to instant joy. I wanted to note, with the patience and calm of a craftsman, every detail of this glorious moment.

Kristin looked blue and—had it not been for her crying—you might have thought she was not alive. Her eyes, if not her voice, said otherwise. I felt like
I could have reached out and touched the Hand of God.

Later, in the nursery, I was astounded that Kristin looked a healthy pink only minutes after her arrival. Her eyes were still open and her mouth was constantly moving.

When Annette came out of the delivery room and the nurse wheeled her up to the window, I was sure I saw Kristin smile. As if to test this observation against reality, I asked the nurse if she had smiled. I could not believe it.

The nurse replied yes and then, when the nurse, Annette and I once again focused on the wonder before us, Kristin Ann smiled again.

(Ed’s Note: Family is the fundamental core unit of our culture, from the unity of many comes the strength of the family to fulfill its destiny, with each generation experiencing the life cycle, and the joys and challenges of realizing our individual and group potential. The gift of life is only our first gift, it is up to us—as individuals and as a family unit—to love and support each other as we develop our unique gifts as children of God. Regrettably, more than 62 million babies have suffered abortion and been killed in their mother’s womb because of the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973 by the United States Supreme Court. It obviously never occurred to the majority of the 7 of 9 setting Justices that they would have not been alive on Planet Earth if their mothers had aborted them. And many of us thought that those 7 Supreme Court Justices that ruled in favor of the motion were kind, thoughtful and sensible students of the United States Constitution, a document whose authors never, and I mean never, would have approved the motion. I say this because our great nation ensured us that were endowed by God with the fundamental tenet of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The majority decision by those
7 misguided Justices have resulted in the killing of 62+ million babies and counting, as more are killed every day in America. It is easy to see why liberal progressives are happy with kicking God out of our schools. These are the same Pro Choice believers who would like to kick God out of our country and kick Christianity out of our nation, then we could become a socialist nation (or Communist or a Dictatorship) without a need for God or religion. Non-believers have some other ideas about this same topic. That’s OK. I believe our universe is big enough to accommodate everyone.)

Financial Thoughts
on Investing
by Warren Buffett

 

(Ed’s Note: The following condensation is from The Tao of Warren Buffett, written by Mary Buffett and David Clark and available for sale at Amazon and bookstores nationwide. I am always impressed by what Warren Buffett has to say and am doing this condensation to help promote their book.)

On Investing: Never be afraid to ask too much when selling offer too little when buying.
(Ed’s Note: How much you get from a sale or how much you have to pay when making a purchase determines whether you make or lose money and how rich you ultimately become.)

(Ed’s Note: For more of Warren Buffett’s advice go to the menu bar above and click on Financial Thoughts.)