Sunday, November 30, 2008

The end of civilization

Over the past few days when we were all supposed to be counting our blessings, I was sitting here wondering if perhaps the civilized world as we know it isn't on its last legs.

The first warning sign came a couple of weeks ago when a teenage girl here in South Florida shot and killed a classmate, reportedly because her friend rejected her advances for a more romantic relationship. The background to the story is complex and sadly, two young lives are over. One girl is dead, the other lost to the court system.

Last week the news was even more shocking. A troubled 19-year-old young man, again here in South Florida, committed suicide in front of a webcam, while over 100 people watched online and did nothing. More horrifying was that some of them reportedly were egging him on as he took the overdose of pills that killed him. By the time someone came to their senses and actually made a call for help, it was too late. He was dead.

And then, just last Friday, a mob of shoppers trampled a store employee to death...so they could get to the bargains. In another store one shopper shot another, apparently over a toy.

What on earth are we coming to as a society? I suppose, going back to man versus lion in ancient Rome, there's a history of blood lust and mob mentality, but I thought the world had improved a bit since then. Apparently not.

So, what is our duty and obligation in this new world? Surely we're supposed to get involved when someone is clearly troubled, when someone is clearly engaged in an act that can harm themselves or others. Can't we at least make that critical phone call to the police that could save a life? Can't we use some common sense and courtesy when we're at a store sale, for goodness sakes?

On Black Friday, I was chatting with another shopper as we were being waited on in a quiet mall that wasn't mobbed with frantic bargain hunters. She'd been to one store where lines were insanely long, but everyone there had been courteous and pleasant. She'd followed that with a stop at another store where people had been so rude, she'd turned right around and left. Even in these difficult economic times, no sale price is so amazing that it's worth risking a brawl, much less trampling over an innocent person. How have we forgotten that?

And how have we forgotten that human life is something of value, that ending a life is a tragedy, not entertainment?

Sherryl Woods

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Serenity in Times Square? Come on...

When I think of peaceful and serene, New York's Times Square is not the first place that pops to mind. Which may be why seeing a lighted billboard right there, in one of the busiest places in the country, featuring the new Welcome to Serenity website almost knocked me out of my chair. Finally, after years and years of staring up at all those amazing Times Square ads for plays, I'm actually in lights on Broadway! This is very, very cool.

Okay, it's not really me, but the fabulous website created by Jeanne Devlin at Nancy Berland Public Relations and Cissy Hartley of Writerspace. I've been telling you for a while now about http://www.welcometoserenitybook.com/, the companion website to my new holiday novel in the Sweet Magnolia series. It is jam-packed with recipes, nifty gift ideas, holiday traditions and decor, and even some serene thoughts to keep in mind as you head for the mall.

The image from Times Square, ironically, came in an email as I was in the midst of planning my own holiday trip to New York. This afternoon I felt a sudden need to visit all the sparkle and chaos that is New York at Christmas. Now I know why this impulse struck me. It was pure holiday magic.

Over the years I've seen a lot of things in Times Square, from the (almost) naked singing cowboy to a pretty impressive fire, from David Blayne doing one of his bizarre magic acts to human gridlock while trying to cross Broadway. And none of this involved being there for New Year's eve, which may be the craziest time of the year ever in this world-famous section of the city.

I doubt the Welcome to Serenity sign will pop up if I actually make it to New York, but seeing the picture is pretty amazing. I'm not sure if what they say about New York holds true for websites -- "if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere" -- but by gosh it's still pretty darn exciting.

Meantime, I hope you'll head on over to the new website and browse through all the ideas we collected for the holidays. Share your own tips and traditions while you're there.

Meantime, happy -- and serene -- holidays, everyone!

Sherryl Woods

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