I've recently written about my struggle with giving gifts to individuals who really do not need the gift they're receiving. A blogger friend, Shona at LA dex press, gave me another perspective on it with her comment about "$20-ing me to death." This comment made me revisit this problem.
When I purchase a gift for a friend or family member, I am usually out at least $20. This $20 is finite, as my income is limited; I can only use that particular $20 in one way. When I buy a gift for someone, that item will usually be out of style, obsolete, and/or unused within 6 months. (Studies have shown that 80-90% of what we purchase is not in use 6 months later.) However, I can take that same $20 and invest it in a child, a child who would not otherwise go to school or even possibly have a meal that day. For $20 a month, North Eastern Haiti Lutheran Mission can provide an education and a lunch to a child in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. Of course, there are many other worthy organizations that can also stretch a $20 bill so that it can save a life. I'm just using this organization as an illustration since it is one with which I am very familiar.
Often I wonder if we are doing our friends and family a favor when we purchase gifts for them. So many people are overwhelmed with their possessions and the constant need to care for them. Many people talk about decluttering and simplifying. I feel that when we give someone yet another item, we're really adding to their burden. I've hear some individuals say it's "fun" to shop and "fun" to receive gifts. However, that fun feeling is fleeting and then you're left with the purchase - sometimes with the problem of credit debt for the buyer and with the problem of storing and caring for the item on the part of the receiver.
There are so many instances throughout the year where am am asked to invest my $20. It's a sad state of affairs when individuals get hurt feelings because they believe the only way one can show love is through purchasing trinkets. And I don't like having to make the choice because what I consider the right choice might send the wrong impression to those whom I care about. Often, however, my choice is clear: I can either use my $20 to negatively impact someone's life with yet one more unneeded item to care for or deal with (and I'm not even going into the negative impact on the environment), or I can make a positive difference by investing in someone's life - literally.