Political correctness takes all the joy out of giving

The joy of Christmas and Hanukkah is expressed in the giving, not the receiving. There are always those to whom we’re expected to give gifts, such as a disliked boss or a surly co-worker. These are the people who get the ties and gift cards, things requiring no thought and little of our time. This category also includes people or organizations that always receive the exact same thing each year. For example, I show my appreciation for the American Civil Liberties Union by sending it a religious Christmas and Hanukkah card. “Spread the love,” I say.

Then there are gifts we want to give. These go to those who have been especially helpful or thoughtful throughout the year. We tend to take extra time to make sure their gifts are special and appropriate to the people receiving them. In my own case, I have a dentist, a couple of ophthalmologists and a bike shop owner who all go out of their way to make sure I’m satisfied with their services. I always bake several different kinds of biscotti for these people. The ingredients don’t cost a lot, but let me tell you, it’s time-consuming and can be a big pain in the butt. But it’s worth it, and it always gives me joy doing it.

When I lived in Michigan, we had some court clerks who often went out of their way to be helpful. If a judge you were about to see was in a foul mood, you’d be warned. If another judge was celebrating a birthday that day, you’d be informed. If pleadings had to be fast-tracked because you got behind or were just plain lazy or careless, they took care of it. There were also people in the register of deeds office and several court reporters who always went above and beyond. These were the exceptions to the bureaucratic civil servant model that didn’t just do their job. They went the extra mile to see that things ran smoothly and everyone was happy. I had neither the time nor the wherewithal to bake in those days, but we had Dunkin’ Donuts!

By all accounts, Sharon Bock is one of those exceptional civil servants we naturally want to say thanks to. She does a thankless, phenomenal job as the Palm Beach County clerk and comptroller, enough to earn kudos from BizPac Review Chairman John R. Smith.

But as terrific as Bock is, she, like all of us, is not without her flaws. It seems she has a bit of a Scrooge streak, too. On Dec. 1, she distributed a press release explaining that her office will not accept gifts of any kind, to ensure “that employees avoid even the appearance of impropriety. The policy is part of the office’s long-standing commitment to transparency and openness in government.”

I can understand money and gift cards being verboten, but a batch of biscotti? A dozen Dunkin’? Have we reached the point where we’re going to prosecute conscientious and otherwise well-meaning public servants for having telltale crumbs on their face?

Alan Bergstein recently lamented the disappearance of “merry Christmas” and “happy Hanukkah” greetings in favor of the more politically correct “happy holidays” foisted upon us by a politically correct society. Now it seems that along with the disappearance of Christmas trees and Hanukkah menorahs, we’re forced to end the tradition of showing appreciation for an act of kindness or a job well done.

Slowly and inexorably, political correctness and fear of reprisal are transforming this once joyous time of the year into just another day at the office.

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