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Bill Kennedy: Happy Boxing Day!

Right Here, Right Now

Posted: December 25, 2008 3:39 p.m.
Updated: December 26, 2008 4:30 a.m.

My family and I were privileged to live nearly four years in Canada and the United Kingdom, where we became acquainted with the holiday of "Boxing Day."

Celebrated on Dec. 26 in the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Boxing Day is a day when people give a present or Christmas box to those who worked for them throughout the year. The tradition is rooted in past centuries when it was the custom for the wealthy to give gifts to household servants who had to work on Christmas to serve their masters. The day following Christmas was the day the servants were allowed off, taking with them boxes or gifts of money provided by their employers.

The money boxes in historic times were actually piggy bank-like ceramic containers kept in shops where the owners, customers and others would deposit donations throughout the year. On Boxing Day, the box would be shattered and the contents shared among the workers of the shop - the equivalent of the modern-day concept of Christmas bonuses.

The anonymous nature of the tip money notwithstanding, the practice of thanking those who work on our behalf throughout the year has a special appeal to me. In that spirit, I have several people I would like to invite to share in my virtual box of goodwill "tips" as we end the year.

First and foremost is the army of saintly volunteers we have in such great abundance in our valley, working tirelessly to help others in need. They do it not for material gain, but for the goodness they feel from bettering humanity. A happy Boxing Day is our wish for each and every one.

All members of the uniformed services also warrant our appreciation this day. Soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guardsmen daily exhibit volunteerism of the highest caliber by placing themselves in harm's way to protect our way of life. For many in combat, the term "holiday" has little meaning. Say a prayer of thanks for them and their families.

Sheriff's Captain Anthony LaBerge and his brave deputies are also the type of public servants worthy of recognition on this day. Their fine efforts were responsible for a reduction in major crime in our area during the past year, making us one of the safest cities of our size in the nation.

Kudos, too, to Fire Chief Luke Claus and his crew for their daily vigilance and their heroic efforts to protect property and life during the historic wildfires we had this year.

Teachers at all levels in our community are also worthy of our appreciation. They are the keepers of our tomorrow and often must overcome great odds to succeed. Accusations of school board budget mismanagement and sometimes senseless debates over how to measure teacher effectiveness were too often distractions from superior classroom performance in the past year. Thankfully we had people like Jim Backer and his Education Foundation to honor the top performing teachers, but they deserve our admiration as well!

This year's mayor, Bob Kellar, definitely deserves to share in the offerings of today's gift box. There is no more dedicated, trustworthy public servant in our valley, nor a more tireless, better spokesperson for our needs.

While we are at it, let's also show our appreciation to Councilmembers Weste, McLean, Ender and Ferry. That under-compensated team's efforts to forward open space initiatives, stop the Las Lomas project, protect us from Cemex, support Newhall redevelopment and provide for much-needed hospital facilities are just a few of the reasons we should feel in their debt.

The excellent city staff gets their share of the tip box, as well, for gaining our enterprise zone status, making us the most business-friendly city in L.A. County, tenaciously preserving the character and quality of our city and vigorously pursuing sustainable growth by maintaining a holistic approach to city planning to ensure the proper balance between economic drivers, parks, cultural amenities, transportation and multiple grades of housing. City staff gets a special reward for taking the long-term view of developing our youth through a plethora of programs at Newhall Community Center, the Aquatic Park and the Activity Center. The real contribution of the city staff is the manner in which they weave all those elements together, sometimes very subtly, to create the magic we call Santa Clarita.

City Manager Ken Pulskamp gets to dip into the Christmas box as well, for having the acumen to assemble such a fine city staff and for cultivating an organizational culture that permits their talents to soar. That is why, in the face of a national economy that is in recession, the long-term economic outlook for the Santa Clarita Valley remains stronger than most other regions.

Local home-grown Assemblyman Cameron Smyth also deserves a share of our goodwill for representing us so well in Sacramento. Cameron's quick study of the issues, willingness to listen to opposing views and steadfast advocacy on our behalf have earned him respect from both major parties. No surprise he was deemed worthy to be appointed chair of the GOP Assembly Caucus.

State Senator George Runner has done his part to be a faithful servant for us this year, putting the ever-important issue of public safety in our community as the key priority. Add to that his efforts to create better access to health care, bring more accountability to public education and provide tax relief to all Californians, and it is clear he is entitled to a share of our goodwill box.

Let's also give Congressman "Buck" McKeon a Boxing Day tip for following through on his promise to push for legislation to resolve the mining issue between our fair city and Cemex. Staving off the Cemex assault will be a major factor in preserving our outstanding quality of life for years ahead.

The Boxing Day tradition of showing appreciation for our "servants" is one worthy of adopting, especially in a place of great creativity such as we have here in Santa Clarita. My hope is that you will take time today to reflect on those who have served you well over the past year and vow to thank them in some creative way in the days ahead. Such spreading of goodwill will make this a better place for all of us, right here, right now!

Bill Kennedy lives in Valencia and is a principal in Wingspan Business Consulting. He serves the community as Chair of the Planning Commission, Chair-Elect of the Chamber of Commerce and member of the following boards: Valley Industrial Association, College of the Canyons Foundation and Habitat for Humanity SF/SCV. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of these organizations or of The Signal.


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