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Other View: On giving rather than acquiring

As the sun climbed into the morning sky this month, desperate people who had been huddled all night in sleeping bags, blankets and lawn chairs on cold concrete showed wearying signs of their ordeal.

As the sun climbed into the morning sky this month, desperate people who had been huddled all night in sleeping bags, blankets and lawn chairs on cold concrete showed wearying signs of their ordeal.

These people weren't down on their luck -- or not down on their luck as one generally thinks of people who spend the night sleeping on the streets. How desperate can you be when your Mercedes is parked just a few feet away, your pockets are stuffed with credit cards or cash and your "ordeal" is getting Nintendo's Wii video game system?

Retailer stakeouts like this one say more about the spirit of acquiring than of giving. At one store, two teenagers at the head of the line openly bragged of plans to resell the game system on eBay for at least three times the retail price.

At another store, a mom wrapped in blankets and leaning against the wall lamented that her parents would never have done anything so outlandish. Certainly they would have stood in a long line for a job if they were out of work or for food if they were penniless and starving. But for a toy, especially one that costs at least $300? Never.

Five years ago, a Time magazine cover headlined "Do Kids Have Too Much Power?" featured a young boy, arms defiantly crossed, a smirk on his face, a crown on his head and electronic toys and games piled around him. A few years earlier, a Wall Street Journal story profiled adults in their 30s and 40s, married and with children, who expected their parents to pay for their annual vacations, new cars, new furniture and playthings. Hmm, suppose there is a connection?

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Frankly, it's difficult to admit to trolling retailers before sunrise and surveying middle-class squatters' camps. But at moments like these, you learn a lot about yourself and your neighbors. And some of it is a bit disconcerting.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

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