Giving and getting: Christmas at its best. In the United States, many live under a perpetual pile of unwanted debt that is shifted from the old year to the new. Yet, when Christmas rolls around, millions of women and men go to the mall and max out another credit card to give gifts not just for loved ones, but for people they feel they must return the favor to.
Christmas yanks my chains not because I'm Scrooge or selfish—really! What disturbs me is this vast sea of consumerism Americans swim in; the holidays seem to only highlight the problem.
Also, there is this guilt factor I do not enjoy: If a loved one gives me a nice gift, I feel I must return that favor; I want them to know I think they're special too, so the dilemma grows as I attempt to find a way of expressing my appreciation and love. I have frank discussions about this with friends and family, but it seems that some individuals get offended if you tell them not to give you a gift.
I have a toddler; last year I gave her a wooden train set and wooden animal puzzle. She does not lack, nor is she without a wonderful toy box of treasures. Her father and I meet her needs year-round, so I do not intend for Christmas to ever become a gift binge.
I've tried to impress upon well-meaning, loving individuals how much I desire simple, non-electronic, sustainable gifts. I would prefer that family members donate to her college savings fund, but most everyone wants to give a gift. I've asked for handmade gifts. Those are the ones I believe in, but no one has the time to make a gift anymore, and shopping is just too easy. What happened to simplicity? What happened to gifts created by the hands of someone who loves you?
My friend and neighbor has a nice group of grandchildren. One of the mothers proclaimed this a "handmade gifts only" year, so my friend is knitting beautiful, luscious sweaters for those lucky children—a gift that represents hours of time and, ultimately, love. The value in that gift is more intrinsic than in a pile of cheap, plastic, made-in-China toys she might easily have picked up.
Think about sharing something of yourself this holiday season, whether it is a story you wrote, a cake you baked, a toy you stitched, a garden you tended or a picture you painted. Think about giving with mindfulness and don't get swept up into that great vortex of shopping pandemonium. It is not selfish to step away from gift-giving frenzies.