I love giving gifts, but I’ve never been comfortable receiving them. There isn’t much that i need or want – I work for a living and manage my budget, rewarding myself conservatively but appropriately throughout the year. I don’t like to rely on receiving gifts to fulfill my desires, and anything I don’t already have is probably exorbitant, anyhow. Correspondingly, I don’t like the pressure of seasonal wish fulfillment for the people that are important to me.
This means I’m typically unexcited by Christmas and the rush of holiday shopping that accompanies it. Every conversation from Thanksgiving forward seems to be about exchanging large sums of money for consumer goods, and if you look closely you can see me twitch with every additional shopping destination that’s rattled off. It just makes me uncomfortable.
Instead of just shutting out the materialism of the season (as i am prone to do), Heather Anne Hogan is transforming it. She sent a memo to her entire family that her Christmas giving-and-getting cycle was being devoted entirely to charity.
Her idea really struck a chord with me. A few years ago my boss at the time made a donation in my name as a Christmas present. I hadn’t ever received a donation before, and was honestly flattered and touched by the idea.
Last year my mother and I reciprocated donation-gifts when she bought me a flock of chickens and i bought her education for a year. Except my gift was deployed in Africa, and hers in South America. We bought other things too – gadgets and movies and socks – but the former pair were the gifts i wound up gabbing about all year.
I feel quite merry in announcing that I no longer want to be a consumer for Christmas. I haven’t started shopping yet, and now I think I’ll be making customized donations instead. Since in some cases it’s too late to intercept gifts bought for me, for every pricey gift I receive I’m going to write a thank you card requesting that the giver make a donation in 2007, or write me a check so i can do so on their behalf.
If you happen to be planning on buying me anything more expensive than a card this year, please consider contributing a philanthropic gift instead. You can still tell me all about the cool gift you thought of – maybe we can go shopping for it together!
Cool People Care offers a press release to get you started: “Christmas Is Not Your Birthday” (unless you are Jesus, Jimmy Buffet, or my dad). Afterwards, World Vision offers some great ideas, as does the more recognizable Heifer International, and the more local Donor’s Choose. Also, Water is Basic.