Monday, December 26, 2011

The Future

I hope all of my readers are enjoying happy holidays.  We had a very quiet but enjoyable Christmas at our house.  A number of years ago, my hubby and I decided to forgo exchanging gifts as we have everything we need and tend to have few wants.  We both find the Christmas season to be painful to watch as people spend more than they should on items that they feel obligated to give items to people who don't really want them.  It all seems such a waste.  From Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, people go into a shopping frenzy, spending money they don't have and running up credit card bills they will be paying over the course of several months, sometimes not even finishing paying off one Christmas before the next Christmas comes around.  On Christmas day, the consumerist orgy commences and is over in the blink of an eye.  Then, on December 26, everyone runs to the stores to return the gifts they received.  (And I'm not even going to talk about what the holidays do to the environment.)  Over the years, Bill and I have asked family to not purchase gifts for us and most have ultimately honored our request.  It makes us happier when we do not receive gifts.

This year my family decided to do something more meaningful.  My hubby, daughter, and I helped out at our annual community Christmas dinner that serves low income individuals in our area.  Guests received a hot Christmas dinner, a bag of used clothing they selected from donations, a blanket, a bag of toiletries, and a gift.  For many of the guests, that was the only gift they received for Christmas.  Driving home after helping to clean up, the disparity between rich and poor was really driven home as we passed the local trash dumpsters which were overflowing with cardboard boxes, plastic wrap,  and gift wrap:
Photo courtesy of my husband

It became even more personal as we passed a house where they actually had their own personal trailer filled with their discards from the Christmas gift frenzy.  

I often hear people lament that they want to "take back Christmas" and "go back to the way it used to be."  Well, that's up to us.  We need to tell family and friends that we're opting out of the meaningless gift exchanges.  We once participated in a family gift exchange among the cousins in Bill's family.  Often, these were people we only briefly saw two or three times a year and didn't know them well.  The year someone suggested I buy long underwear as a gift for one of the male cousins was the year I said no more.  Almost everything I ever received in those exchanges ended up in the donation pile the very next week.  I wasn't ungrateful as I know much thought and time went into selected the gifts.  It's just that I didn't need the items and I didn't want the clutter in my home.  A friend commented that her family gift exchange has turned into everyone exchanging gift cards:  "Merry Christmas!  Here's a $25 Outback card; thanks for the $25 Olive Garden card."  How is this showing love to one another?  I'm not a Grinch and I like to receive surprises.  But we need to rethink, simplify, and personalize gift giving.  Cookie exchanges, giving to favorite charities, or volunteering together are much more meaningful and definitely less wasteful.  

As I approach the new year, I want to continue focusing on appreciating the simple things and working towards reducing, reusing, and recycling in all areas of my life.  I want to more fully live out my Quaker ideals of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and sustainability.  Over the next week, I'm going to be pondering how I will continue this personal journey and then share a few of my thoughts and goals.

1 comment:

Shona~ LALA dex press said...

You know I will be looking forward o your upcoming posts.

This year my family listened to me when I asked them for nothing more than a contribution to the race fee for the 1/2 marathon I'm planning on running in 2012. There was nothing additional, JUST a contribution.

One couple gave everyone a bottle of blackberry wine from a local vineyard with the request that we not recycle the unique bottle, but give it back to them because they have a project in mind.

Tuesday is trash day in my neighborhood & I cringe at the thought of overflowing bins.