I received a notification informing us that donations to Michigan food banks will no longer be tax-deductible after December 31, 2011, which coincides with the expiration of federal extended unemployment insurance programs. The expiration of federal extensions will immediately drop 2 million unemployed from the rolls and millions more will follow as state benefits expire in 2012. Also heralding in the New Year, Michigan will reduce unemployment compensation to a maximum of 20 weeks from 26, the standard of all states for more than 50 years. Because unemployment compensation is designed only to cover living expenses, it is commonly accepted that all of these monies are promptly dumped back into our lagging economy. A doom and gloom outlook for the unemployed and needy has been the forecast for a few years now, but the perfect storm of 2012 will add to poverty statistics at a head-spinning rate. My inclination to seek out positive and humorous perspectives about any given situation has become more challenging, but I think I can do it for the remainder of 2011.
With the holiday season approaching my thoughts predictably turn to what I am thankful for and what Jesus gifted me with on the day he was born. If there were ever a time to relish the present, it is now. I plan to savor Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts with my family members who are currently healthy, fed, housed, and humorous. My focus is on blessings that money cannot buy nor replace, such as loving and supportive friendships and a stable marriage. We will give what we can, not for the benefit of a tax deduction, but because we appreciate the need to share our bounty now more than ever. People are pulling together, one of the few upsides to our economic climate, and I believe we will experience more brotherhood in the coming year. While Christmas commercials and electronic ads are inundating a broke America in a futile effort to pry money from near empty wallets, we will buy gifts from local crafters, small businesses, wineries, and breweries. 2012 promises to be a challenging year, but I plan to have a rocking good time during what remains of 2011 and adopt a Scarlett O’Hara attitude of not thinking about it today. Helping me to delay thoughts of next year is The Michigan Beer Cellar, the only micro-brewery in Michigan that is also a winery and artisan distillery, conveniently located only a few blocks away.