Column by Paul Hein.
Exclusive to STR
Dear Missouri Legislators, Administrators, Adjudicators, and various other employees:
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! At this time of year, one’s thoughts turn toward giving, and it occurs to me that I have been remiss in expressing to you, my rulers, my appreciation of what you have given me, over these many years of my long life.
What you have given me is the opportunity to expend a significant portion of my working life to support you with food, clothing, housing, transportation, energy, and, I hope, some well-deserved recreation. For this I am grateful, for without your generous acceptance of my help, I would very likely have given that portion of my wealth over to selfish activities and foolish pleasures. You have not only graciously accepted my offerings, but provided me with government--i.e., control, regulation, and limitation--of my life lest I fall into the error of living for myself, instead of in accord with your thoughtful guidance as to what I should do and should not do, and your eternal vigilance in reminding me of how you will punish me--albeit, no doubt, with a heavy heart--for disregarding your ennobling edicts.
I am thankful for the gift of the use of your automobile, which, after I’ve paid for it, you allow me to drive as much as I want, as well as repair and maintain, while asking only that I purchase from you various license plates and stickers acknowledging your actual ownership of the vehicle, which you will promptly and efficiently reclaim, should I be so recalcitrant as to ignore your reasonable request that I purchase those plates and stickers, without which, I have no doubt, the vehicle would not operate at all.
And your home! My gratitude is ineffable for your gracious gift of allowing me to live in it, even with documents indicating my ownership, so long as I pay to heat it, cool it, repair it, maintain it, and, of course, render suitable yearly tribute to you in thanksgiving for your generosity. I calculated the last time I wrote the check that if I live only a few years more, I will have paid you more for the privilege of living in your home, than I paid the builder to build it! It warms my heart to know that a portion of any profit the builder might have made from his efforts were turned over to you in return for your license, or permission, to build the house, so that I could occupy it and pay you suitable compensation for the privilege of doing so. Thanks to you, I have come to understand the utter selfishness and greed behind the concept of private property!
Our fallen human nature inclines us to that selfishness. Were it not for your gentle guidance, I shudder to think how I might have wasted the funds that I instead placed in your all-knowing hands, for proper use. I am especially grateful on behalf of my children and grandchildren, who, upon my death, will have the satisfaction of knowing that much of my productive life’s work--that I was allowed to keep--will be placed in your wise hands, instead of falling into theirs, where it might have been wasted on frivolities. When they sufficiently mature, they will realize the blessing you have given them--indeed, gently forced upon them--to place the well-being of assorted strangers above their own.
Has there ever been an instance of a financially strapped Missourian being relieved of his burden toward the state so that he could, for example, replace his roof, or fix his foundation? Of course not. By generously reminding such an individual that your claim upon his production exceeded his own, you strengthened his character, and bolstered his resolve to be a better, less self-centered person.
We thank you! At this blessed time of year, our prayer is that an all-knowing providence may reward you with what you so richly deserve!!