Christmas: Giving Back
Author: Lisa Shoreland
This is the first holiday season in which I have told all family and friends (and significant others looking for remember-this-the-next-time-you’re-mad-at-me gift ideas), “All I want for Christmas this year is to give.”
Wants and Needs
Let me start by saying I live a comfortable life of few demands except for the hungry bellies of my adopted cat and rescue dog. I don’t need much; after spending a year trying to become more ecologically and economically responsible by limiting my purchases to needs rather than wants, I don’t want much anymore, either. That’s why this holiday season has been, for me, the most troubling one yet.
The Birthday Experiment
As Thanksgiving came and went, my thoughts moved eagerly to Christmas. With my newfound efforts in minimalism and volunteerism, however, I knew that I would be unhappy with typical Christmas materialism this year. All I wanted this Christmas was to give back—to the homeless, to lonely critters at the pound, to children, to the elderly, and more.
So, I conducted a trial run of charity Christmas wish-listing via my early December birthday. I announced on all forms of social media and said in several face-to-face conversations that all I wanted for my birthday was Petco gift cards, which I intended to donate to the local animal shelter.
When the big day arrived, I received the usual birthday fare (lotions, candles, knick-knacks) plus one gift card to Pottery Barn. I was grateful, but crushed.
Ways to Give Back
Still, I remain hopeful. Christmas is, after all, a season of hope, and the epitome of what my faith reminds me daily: give. Christmas is about sacrifice and gratitude to begin with, isn’t it?
Sacrifice and gratitude should be a part of everyone’s Christmas this year. Anyone can relate to the experience of receiving gifts you don’t really need and end up collecting dust in the attic. Easy fix: thank the giver of the gift and donate it in 2011. This may seem ungrateful, but what earthly or spiritual good is a leopard-print Snuggie at the bottom of your dresser? If you’ve sworn off commercial body washes and their harmful chemicals, donate your new Bath & Body Works bath set to your local homeless shelter. You can afford to buy green soaps; they can’t and will make use of your gift.
If it’s not too late, ask for donations to your favorite charities. Some people want to be able to hand something off to you rather than just a receipt, in which case you can ask for gift cards to places like Petco and donate the cards to your local animal shelter. Maybe you’ll have better luck than I did.
Many stores including Pottery Barn are currently promoting Gifts That Give Back. Purchasing these gifts, like the tealight lamp that benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, can serve as daily reminders of things that truly matter and cannot be gift-wrapped. After all, what else are we here for on this earth if not to help one another?
Bio: Lisa Shoreland is currently a resident blogger at Go College, where recently she's been researching Scholarships For Nurses and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing and hogging her boyfriend’s PlayStation 3. To keep her sanity she enjoys practicing martial arts and bringing home abandoned animals.