The print column, getting 'imbued'

This is a copy of my print column for this week, and what seems like my annual struggle to grasp the holiday spirit.

I am a man who makes a living with words. I take them very seriously. They are not to be used carelessly. That’s because words can have a powerful effect. They are to be caressed and molded, not to be used indiscriminately by those who don’t understand the result words can leave in their wake.

Of course, some words are better than others. Take the word bogus, for instance. It’s a flat-out great word. Not only does it sound great, it gives the you the impression of exactly what it sounds like. It’s one of those words I’d like to see in the newspaper every day. Of course, that’s not always possible.

I have a tendency to equate certain words with certain times of the year, and specific occasions.

If you’re thinking this is working toward our current holiday season, you are certainly not bogus, although I guess some Grinches would consider my sentimental leanings toward Christmas somewhat so.

The word that infiltrates my lexicon every year as we careen into mid-December is one that was imparted to me by my mother.

The word, as Allen Ludden used to say every night on the old “Password” game show, is “imbued.”

Webster’s tells us it means to “permeate,” as with feelings or ideas.
Yep, that about sums it up.

My mother always used to tell her offspring shortly after Thanksgiving it was time to get “imbued” with the Christmas spirit.

Now I’m the one urging my own kids to do the same. I received an e-mail from my daughter last week that was maybe the best Christmas present I could have received.
She’s now at the mid-point of her junior year in college. I know, don’t ask me where the time goes.

She was just checking in, telling me about the Christmas decorations that are adorning her tiny room. She reminded me it was time to start getting “imbued.”
Which brings me to my problem. Talking and writing about being “imbued” is a hell of a lot easier than being “imbued.”

Each year I battle the same feelings, that the meaning of the season is too often lost in an avalanche of commercialism. Call me Charlie Brown if you like. I’ll wear the emblem proudly.

My eyes are assaulted by malls that start putting out their Christmas displays right after Labor Day. My ears are filled with Christmas music that radio stations decide to start playing 24 hours a day right around Halloween.

The traditional start of the holiday, Thanksgiving, is now little more than the precursor to Black Friday, with each year seemingly outdoing the ridiculous starting times of the annual shopping frenzy. 7 a.m. now no longer will suffice.

Some shopping areas now throw open the doors at 3 a.m., others at midnight on Thanksgiving night. And there are always crowds waiting to jam into the stores. Why bother with Thanksgiving dinner at all? Why not just pick up something on the way to the mall? Or better yet, hit the Food Court along the way.

Of course, part of my dilemma is what I do for a living. Working at a newspaper is not the cheeriest occupation. A lot of what we deal with every day around here is unbearably sad. It’s an occupational hazard.

Which is why I was so pleased to read a little story that was tucked into last Tuesday’s paper.

It involved Gwen Runge of Glenolden. If that name sounds familiar, it should. Runge lost her son Joseph in one of those moments of madness that so often dominate the news. He was shot and killed back in 2001 by a co-worker at a fast-food restaurant.

To honor his memory, for the second straight year family members fanned out across the streets of Philadelphia on a recent chilly evening, handing out winter clothes, blankets, cookies and gift cards to the homeless.

Gwen Runge was able to assemble more than 300 blankets, as well as 300 sets of gloves, hats and scarves, all of which made their way into the hands of people who desperately need them.

Her reasoning was beautiful in its simplicity.

“Joseph was a kind, loving person who would do anything for anyone,” she said. “This is our way of remembering Joseph.”

It is a noble effort, one that honors his memory in a lovely manner.
It is also something else. It is called being “imbued.”

To: Gwen Runge. From: Phil Heron.

Thanks for reminding me.

Philip E. Heron is editor of the Daily Times. Call him at (610) 622-8818. E-mail him at To visit his daily blog, the Heron’s Nest, go to