Let's go back to that stable in Bethlehem. What was the fuss? A child was born. Believe what you will about the divinity of that child, the essential fact is that a child was born. As with that child, the hopes of the world are fixed upon every newborn. In whatever way we are associated with a child, we are invigorated by the rekindling of our aspirations for a better world.
The child in Bethlehem was born in mysterious (miraculous) circumstances. Every birth is both a mystery and a miracle. That Jewish baby 2,000 years ago was welcomed to this world by heavenly signs and deferential nobles. Every birth, no matter how humble, is a starburst, a time of joyous reflection, a gathering of the proximately powerful in homage to the mother and to the tiny representative of humanity's future.
Now, in these times of warfare, terror, hunger, financial panic and environmental danger, every child is the symbol of our desires for a better world. It is fitting that we rededicate ourselves to those children and to that better world.
As this year closes, you have an opportunity to help causes that help children. In your community, there are many worthwhile agencies, but most important are those that specialize in serving children. This is a call for you to contribute to such agencies and to enlist your relatives, coworkers and neighbors to do the same.
Imagine how much money we could raise for the benefit of children if the owner of each vehicle donated the money saved on a tank full of gas at today's reasonable prices compared to the recent high prices.
My car has a tank that takes about 14 gallons of gas. At $1.50 a gallon, it costs me $21 to fill up. When gas was $4 per gallon, I was spending $56 for a full tank. I will gladly send $35 to Lutherwood, an excellent organization that helps children in Indianapolis, rather than see that money go to the oil producers and oil companies. Will you send your savings on a single tank of gas to a place in your county that works for our children, our future?
Next year, Hoosiers need to work on a different level for our children. The time has come to require that all children in child care have the basic health and safety protections they deserve. Today, child care facilities run by religious institutions are exempt from many of the reasonable regulations that protect children. Too many parents, however, believe that conditions and practices in religious-related child care centers must be adequate because of the religious connection. Mounting evidence indicates that is not true.
Indiana needs to use existing systems of voluntary certification and rigorous inspection for every child care facility, including homes and religious settings. Parents need to know which facilities are healthy, safe and well-run places for their children. The lack of certification will be a signal to parents that they need to look closely at facilities that fail to meet solid standards.
Neither the governor nor the legislator can object to this proposal. They have already agreed to pay a premium to accredited facilities. Parents and all citizens deserve to have their children in certified facilities. Just because one child was born long ago in a stable does not mean today's children do not deserve better.
Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU's Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com.