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Traditions of Easter

Some traditions change even as they stay the same.

My love of hard-boiled eggs probably started with Easter Sunday many years ago. We would boil them, color them and then hide them for hours. Eventually we would eat most of them. We weren’t allowed to eat them if they were a day old.

By the time my kids came along plastic eggs had made their appearance. We used them year after year, filling them with coins and Hershey kisses. You couldn’t eat the eggs but they never spoiled either.

This Sunday was our first with Henry genuinely hunting eggs. These were not only plastic and colored; they came in the shape and colors of footballs, soccer balls and basketballs. They didn’t have just one coin; they had several. A dollar bill found its way into one egg and a five into another.

I guess it is a bit like the tooth fairy; inflation has driven the price of a lot of traditions up over the years.

Easter also brings out the wooden cross made many years ago by Bob McLeod to be placed in the sanctuary of our church. Children and adults alike bring flowers to place on the cross. Slowly the crowd makes its way to the front seeking just the right spot for yet another bloom. Parent and child take part in transforming the stark wooden cross into something beautiful. Something appearing dark and dead becomes something colorful and full of life.

Such is the message of Easter for all Christians. Traditions change over time, but the promises of our Lord endure forever. He Lives!

Las Vegas’ transformation

I missed my flight Sunday evening and didn’t arrive in Las Vegas until almost 3 a.m. Eastern time. The city stretched for miles and miles in all directions with the lights offering a sharp contrast against the darkness of the desert night.

I have been coming to Las Vegas for more than 40 years, although I am not a gambler. During that time I have seen the city transformed from a small city with a lot of neon to a massive city with more five-star restaurants than any other place in the world.

The Sands was the first hotel my family stayed at in the ’60s. Like many others of that time, it is long gone. They were replaced with larger and larger hotels. The neon was replaced with newer technology with screens the size of a large bus broadcasting the message of the day.

This week I am staying at the Wynn. It is the latest and greatest hotel in a city known for its excess. Although I have been coming here a long time, it seems that the excess of this place is particularly out of place in today’s economy.

The Wynn cost more than $1.2 billion to build. My room has floor-to-ceiling windows showing the city and mountains in the distance. Just below I can see the private golf course of Mr. Wynn. A private golf course in the middle of the desert!

The room has his and her bathrooms, each with their own television. The curtains open and close at the touch of a button. Twelve-thousand employees wait to cater to every whim of their customers.

The message isn’t really about the extravagance of this hotel and city. You see, these days this room doesn’t cost any more than an average hotel at the Atlanta airport. It isn’t much more than the new chain motels in Dothan or Tallahassee.

Las Vegas has suffered as much as any city in the country from the economic recession. In tough times, people can give up gambling, expensive dinners, lavish shows and nice hotels in a hurry. Combine that with the public backlash against companies that have expensive junkets to resort areas and you have a double hit to this economy.

Without much industrial backup, the city has seen spiraling increases in job losses and bankruptcies. The average value of a home has dropped almost 40 percent.

The casinos are only half full with hundreds of slot machines sitting there waiting for their next victim. The card tables are more empty than full. The shows have tickets available on the day of the show.

Without making any moral judgment on the value of Sin City, I don’t think I have been anywhere the effects of the recession have been more visible. As in so many cases, it isn’t the high rollers that will suffer. It is the thousands of hard working people earning low wages that bear the brunt of this downturn.

Another hit

Notwithstanding my belief that cigarette taxes are particularly harmful to the poor, there has never been a better time to quick smoking. The recent 62 cents per pack federal tax increase will take the average cost of a pack of cigarettes to more than $5.

That would be 20 quarters you would have to put into the cigarette machines of my day. A two-pack-a-day habit will cost you $3,650 per year. Smoke for 50 years like my Dad and you will spend almost $200,000, even if the price never goes up again.

For many years smoking had enormous costs to one’s health. Now those costs will hit your pocketbook as well. There has never been a better time to give quitting a shot. Good luck.

Turning a corner

Finally, for all the bad economic news of the past year, you can catch just a glimpse that we are turning the corner. Perhaps that is just wishful thinking, but that is important too. When we believe that things can only get worse, it often becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Part of turning things around is believing the future will be better.

I believe the future will be better. Hopefully we are on our way.