As we come to the commercial climax of the Christmas season, most of us can be easily brainwashed into running around stores to pick up gifts for our closest family and friends. While we have the best intentions that these gifts will fulfill the needs of the recipients – a special treat “that they wouldn’t buy for themselves” both parties are usually left with the guilt of giving and receiving too much. For a reminder look in two places: 1) at the bottom of January’s Visa bill and 2) and in the back of your storage closet or deepest, darkest kitchen cupboard.
Unfortunately, there is a reason we don’t buy certain things for ourselves. While many of us will not be able to make personal purchases during this holiday season (when everyone else rightfully comes first), I hope more will, deep down inside, realize that we don’t really need some of these material gifts.
I have often found myself buying gifts for family members that they would not have otherwise bought for themselves. Why would my brother-in-law ever need a pocket-sized butane torch? In fact, he didn’t. He didn’t utter these words, but when he opened it, the look on his face said it. And deep down inside, I knew it before I even bought it.
I have been on the receiving end of this absurdity, too. Gifts for me, with the most personal of intentions, end up being returned, or worse, relegated to the closet, tags attached, only to be discovered years later during a space-making crusade. My Nana had a saying for this, spoken in the sweetest tone, after opening yet another gift, “Oh… now you shouldn’t have done that!’”
Have you ever found that you really “shouldn’t have?”
There are ways of taking the stress out of giving, while sharing the wealth and spirit of the holiday season with more people. When choosing those gifts, it’s important to think about how it can benefit the world, but also your community.
Every local retail shop offers gift cards that enable the recipient to pick out exactly what they need. And local jobs, including artists and makers are supported.
All local activity providers – from hot springs, to golf courses and zip-lines – offer gift cards that keep nearly 100% of the revenue in the community to pay for wages for locals. This way your neighbour is getting a gift, too.
For that person that already has everything, gifts to local charities are always appreciated and will help those that need it the most, including some of your neighbours, too. And this one of the few gifts where the sender receives a gift in the form of an official tax receipt.
A charitable gift doesn’t leave a guilt hangover or fill the top shelf in your closet. This gift fulfills a local need. This gift has purpose and it helps remind the sender and the recipient of their purpose, too.
So unless you are absolutely sure that you know what gift will make your friends and family ecstatic, why not buy a gift card from an independent retailer, a local activity provider; or look up your local charities and donate time or money in their honour. Your investment will remain in the community, supporting those in need, financing projects that improve our quality of life and, ultimately, minimizing the effect of enduring inequality for years to come, which is good for all of us. That is much more than any pocket-sized butane torch could do.
And I’ll bet you won’t hear ‘Oh you shouldn’t have’ during the entire holiday season.
“It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.”
– Mother Teresa