Christmas Carol for the Valley

Charles Dickens’ classic “Christmas Carol” evokes a kaleidoscope of sentiments, many of which capture the timeless essence of this holiday season.

In conjuring up the emotional highs and lows over the life span of one curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge, Dickens homes in on the uplifting and transformative qualities that make this day of celebrating the birth of Christ so special and universal. The Mahoning Valley community, too, can reflect on the heartwarming memories of Christmases past, the bountiful blessings of Christmas present and the promising hopes of Christmases future.

Flash back to December 1963 when the streets of downtown Youngstown bustled with pedestrians shuttling between the mammoth and grandiose Strouss-Hirshberg and G.M. McKelvey department stores. All the while thick and pungent smoke signaled a path of steel-making prosperity throughout the Valley. Those old enough reminisce fondly of simpler times when bonds of family, friends and neighborhoods seemed warmer and more cohesive. Valley residents of all ages today can take pride in our shared heritage of industrial might nourished by traditional and timeless values of hard work, family loyalty and compassion for others.


Flash forward to today when downtown Youngstown, still the heart of the Mahoning Valley, has been reinvented into a hub of thumping nightlife and ever-expanding New Age commerce. The landscape of the entire Valley has been re-sculptured from a monolith of steel to a matrix of industrial dynamism. Unfortunately, however, far too many remain standing in the shadows of the Valley’s ongoing transformation, enduring unacceptably high levels of unemployment, poverty and despair. To our collective credit, many others have mustered up the quintessential Christmastime values of support, compassion, activism, selflessness and giving to ensure they, too, get help.

Now flash forward to Christmas 2033. Imagine downtown Youngstown as an international mecca for the expansive 3-D printing industry with thousands of center-city residents supporting a bevy of business, commercial and cultural institutions. Elsewhere in the Valley, the region’s rich warehouse of natural gas and oil has made it a major player in the global clean-energy revolution.

Pie-in-the-sky dreams? Perhaps. But as the Valley’s evolution over the past five decades has illustrated, improving our personal lives and enriching our communities often hinge upon the very values of faith, hope, sharing, compassion, hard work, diligence and resilience that Christians and many non-Christians alike celebrate today.

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