As an adult I’ve always had a conflicted relationship with gifts. Interestingly I enjoy giving rather than receiving but not because I dislike getting attention…it’s really more of that I get a lot of presents that I have no idea what to do with. That may make me sound unappreciative but that’s not it – I am honored that I have friends and family who want to show me their affection. But I also really dislike getting bric-brac or tchotchkes because I think that there has to be some better purpose for $10-20.
Here is my husband’s post on Give a Crap. Don’t Give Crap. Here’s How. I second the sentiment and I’ve got some additional ideas, some of which I’ve been trying to practice over the years:
- For a number of years, my mother has given an animal in our name to the Heifer Project and she gives us a small ornament or toy of the animal to put out at Christmas…we’ve got a menagerie at this point and it really makes me feel good. My husband and I took this a step further when we got married and registered at Heifer Project and Changing the Present for our wedding. We felt that changing the lives of people in real need was a much better way to celebrate our happiness than having another vase (we are older so that played a big part in our decision – we have most of the household items we need already). Somewhere there is a herd of llamas helping families in need along with Koester the Pig (named in honor of my grandmother) and some geese, rabbits, and other assorted animals.
- Another thing that I like to do if I feel the need to give a gift is to give something that is consumable. My step-mother’s brother, to honor the memory of her father who loved smoked turkey, always sent one for the holiday. It was a gift that was both very yummy but also had a powerful emotional tie. My father-in-law eats smoked salmon religiously every morning. For a man who is extremely hard to buy for, a smoked salmon of the month club was perfect. It gives him something he will definitely use and something special that he would not buy for himself. A good friend of mine and I have often exchanged tickets to events that we attend together and results in a great memory.
This year, although gas and oil prices have come down, I am considering giving the gift of warmth. Citizens Energy here in Massachusetts is a good option as is Salvation Army’s Coats for Kids program. Other things that I am considering are local Food Banks, Dress for Success, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
I am by no means against gifts but often we seem to get gifts because we feel obligated but we don’t really know what would be appreciated. If you are fortunate, as I am, consider helping your community. It may result in fewer gifts under the tree but may make us appreciate each one a little more and focus on the things that matter more – spending time and taking care of each other. This year, we are asking our friends to make a donation to their favorite charities instead of giving us a gift…but we’ll always take baked goods!
What's your favorite way to take care of your community during the holidays?