All my life I tried without much success to shop the perfect Christmas gift for my father. He was sensitive to the cold so one year I bought him a sweater that even Nanook of the North would have been proud to wear. When my father opened the box, he said all the right things but I could tell the sweater didn’t light his fire. He never wore it except once when I forced his arms into the sleeves during a visit. Going through his things after he died, I found the sweater in its original box with the bow still inside. It looked as if he had put it away after I left and never took it out again.
|Hey, it worked for Colin Firth.|
As years of gifts piled up, so did the stuff my father never used. He could have opened a general mercantile store and stocked it with gifts I’d bought for him. When I asked why he didn’t use that new wallet or those slippers that were meant to replace the duct-taped relicts he’d worn since dinosaurs roamed the earth, he’d tell me the old ones still had some “good” in them. Once when I pressed the issue, he told me he had a closet full of clothes that would last for the rest of his life. Adding more stuff to the mix seemed to him like an unnecessary waste of my hard-earned cash.
The older I get, the more I understand my father’s point of view. Most people have too much stuff, stuff that fills houses and overflows into garages, then into rented PODS and storage units. Some people visit their stuff and others leave it to languish unattended and mostly forgotten. My closet is also full of clothing that will never wear out in my lifetime. My theory is if you haven’t worn or used something for a few years, you should give it to someone who will wear or use it. More and more when I contemplate bringing new stuff into my world, I ask myself this question: will it really make my life easier, better or happier?
Several years ago I told family and friends that I was opting out of the Christmas gift exchange. My decision was a hard sell for some people. A few agreed to make donations to charity in lieu of gifts. A few probably thought I was one of these:
|A heart "two sizes too small"|
I would like to be that person who always finds the perfect gift for people I love, but in reality, I’m not very good at mind-reading. Past holidays often left me feeling as if I had spent buckets of money for stuff nobody wanted. On hindsight, gifts that seemed wonderful to me turned out more like this:
|If somebody gives you lemons, make lemonade|
Recently, I had a Hallelujah moment. I'm not alone. Here’s an op-ed piece from the November 29, 2013 Los Angeles Times titled "The Season of Excess Begins" by Daniel J. Fink, which aptly expresses how I feel about the "barely restrained annual celebration of blatant commercialism..."
“As Black Friday morphs in one direction to interfere with the celebration of Thanksgiving and in the other toward Cyber Monday, people continue to buy one another things just because they ‘have to get someone a gift,’ even if it may be re-gifted, returned or never used.
...If you feel a need to give, give food to the hungry, clothes and toys to those in need, or donations to victims of storms, violence or conflict. A plate of homemade cookies or some other delicacy delivered personally is a much better way to remember friends and family than a meaningless generic gift, a 'dustable' to sit on the shelf or yet another ill-fitting sweater in the wrong color. And most older people need even fewer things. Unfortunately, what they really want—youth, vigor health—are things we can't give them. But they, and I'm sure many others, would appreciate a call, a card or a visit from family, neighbors and friends. So will you."
So here's the deal: I will make you my killer brownies for Christmas but, instead of that sweater, would you mind instead if I donated money to help little guys like this?
|I think I love you|
Whatever you're doing today—shopping or not—cheers to a Happy Monday!