BY PAULA MINAERT — I get crabby this time of year, when I see Christmas decorations before Halloween and snide holiday ads. Christmas has been co-opted by the capitalists, I grumble. It’s consumerism run rampant. (Obviously, I’m only one of a long line of people who point this out.)
A man hit and killed some people in the Home Depot parking lot on East-West Highway on Thanksgiving Day when he lost control of his car. He was there because he thought it was open – because some stores actually were open that day. Others planned to open at midnight, to give eager shoppers a head start on Black Friday. Whatever happened to regarding this holiday as sacrosanct?
But I saw some things recently that put me in a better frame of mind – right here in Hyattsville. On December 3, I saw a long line of police cars parked on 43rd Avenue by Hyattsville Elementary School. Then they started moving, and you couldn’t miss it. Every single vehicle turned on its lights and its siren, and they slowly drove in a long (and noisy) procession to the Mall at Prince George’s.
It was the annual Santa with a Badge event, where our city police officers, with help from other local law enforcement agencies, take needy children on a shopping spree for Christmas. I don’t know about the children, but I loved the parade, especially the cars with speakers that made a “vroom-vroom” sound. The whole thing made me feel good.
Then that afternoon, I went to the first Annual Hyattsville Heroes Football Game: Hyattsville’s Finest (the police department) versus its Bravest (the Volunteer Fire Department). The game raised money for the Sonny Frazier Toy Drive, which also provides gifts for needy children.
These are people whose work is helping city residents – and they spent most of a Saturday, on their own time, doing something else that benefited others.
Of course, they had a lot of fun, too. The players tackled each other, pulled each other down in the dirt, and talked trash. At one point, one of the Finest picked up one of the Bravest and held him up upside down. Just for fun.
The Finest scored the first touchdown, courtesy of Alonzo Washington, assistant to county councilmember Will Campos. In the end, the Bravest won, but no one’s quite sure of the score. I heard different ones, and that’s as it should be. It wasn’t about the score.
The following Thursday, I worked at St. Jerome’s Café. Several members of the nearby Second Washington Chapel on Gallatin Street came and brought gifts for everyone who came for lunch. They cut bread and served pasta. And before we served, one woman from the Chapel led us in a call-and-response song. It begins, “I don’t know but I’ve been told…streets of heaven are paved with gold.” We all joined in.
All this is small-town America at its best. It’s our friends and neighbors focusing on what’s really important. And they do this kind of thing all year round.