Well, it's been a little while since I've hopped on a soapbox, so despite the fact that I probably should be working, I think I'll take some time to wax poetic about my opinions that I know you were dying to hear.
So I'll just say it. I don't really like Christmastime. It's not that I don't believe in God or good tidings or snowflakes or any of that fun stuff. I actually love Christmas carols and egg nog and the Santa hats, and going to the Christmas Eve service at my church at home might be one of the highlights of my year since I get to see so many people from my childhood and adolescence for that giddy, once-every-365-days, tell-me-everything-you've-been-doing-lately conversation. Christmas Day is fantastic because I usually eat myself into a food coma, take a nap, go to a movie, then come home and eat some more. But the actual Christmas season has been completely ruined for me by the marketing morons who think it's appropriate to encourage America to get a "jump" on their holiday shopping in September. When Christmas displays start coming out before Halloween, I get itchy, cranky, and can't wait until January gets here. I don't want to see Christmas candy or lights or nativity scenes or sales until AFTER Thanksgiving. It's just obscene.
And here comes the real Scrooge in me... I hate buying Christmas presents. And it's not that I don't like doing nice things for my friends and family, or that I'm so ridiculously cheap and self centered that I don't want to spend money on the people that I love. It's more the insult that (and this is so cliche) our capitalist society is setting an expectation that forces me to go out in the freezing cold (since I usually don't get back to Texas any sooner than two days before Christmas, and there's no way in HELL I'm setting foot in a mall then), find parking, fight through throngs of cranky shoppers and screaming children, and dedicate myself to the mission of sifting through destroyed racks and display tables to find the perfect gift that will be tons of fun to unwrap but will probably never be used until the office White Elephant party comes up NEXT Christmas, at which time my gift will be pulled out of the back of someone's closet, rewrapped, and regifted to Bertha, the secretary down the hall, all while thinking in the back of my head about the guy I passed on the street who is wrapped up in two holey flannel jackets with no gloves on who I refused to give a quarter (that's another topic for another day and another blog). Or even worse, the little kid somewhere in Southeast or in West Philadelphia who DEFINITELY isn't getting Christmas this year, and whose mother isn't exactly sure where tomorrow's breakfast is coming from either. When I think about all of these things combined, they lead me to the conclusion that Thanksgiving is certainly my favorite holiday because I get to have all the family, friends, good cheer, and food I can handle without the specter of materialism blowing in and raining on my great mood.
Because I'm attempting to become a person of action rather than a person who sits and bitches, I decided a couple of weeks ago that I'm not buying Christmas presents this year. I was sitting in my kitchen on Saturday night movie night having a conversation with a friend about this year's Christmas gift list when we discussed the idea of contributing to a charity instead of wasting money on things our friends don't need. So I mulled the idea around in my head for a couple of weeks, but wasn't able to really think of a good, quality charity that I would want to donate my Christmas present money to that would really capture the entire spirit of what I want to accomplish, not to mention someplace worthwhile that will spend my money on good things.
That is, until today. I read a heartwarming human interest piece about an organization called "Ways to Work". They provide grants and low interest car loans to low wage earners with at least one child in the household to help secure a dependable car that will get the person to and from work. Their statistics are amazing. Work absenteeism among loan recipients is down 92%, transit time to work is cut by 91%, and more than 25% have been able to attend job related training that they wouldn't have been able to attend without their own car. I have to say, that's one hell of a step up for someone who is barely living paycheck to paycheck wondering how on earth they're going to pay their utility bill next month.
In the spirit of goodwill to all people, I'm going to celebrate Christmas this year, just like I do every year. I'm still going to go to all the Christmas parties and bake and eat and have a fantastic time. I'll share the cheer and be merry and love everyone around me. I might even have a little Christmas party of my own. But I think I will feel a little less guilty about conspicuous consumption when instead of spending my money on other people who are just as blessed as I am to have enough creature comforts to get us by, I try and do something to help give another person a legitimate hand up into the world. Because isn't that what it was all supposed to be about anyways?
How to contribute