With the holiday season upon us (or so the circulars tell me) I thought I’d devote today’s column to gift giving. Let’s face it folks, for a lot of us, its not going to be the big present year that we were hoping for. The economy is in the gutter, year-end bonuses have gone with it, and many people are trying to figure out what to do for the holidays.
For starters, let’s all take a deep breath, grab some couch, and think about the gifts that we have given and received in the past few years. Can you remember what you got last year? How about the year before? Can you remember what you gave someone eight years ago? If you’re like me, you basically have no clue.
Now, sit back, close your eyes for a minute, and think back to the first time you had dinner with your spouse, your child’s first school play, or the last time your entire family was together (well, maybe some don’t want to recall that one). If one of those specifics doesn’t apply, pick one that does. Does it make you smile when you think of it? Can you recall specifics of the particular event or happening? If you are like me, the answer to that question is yes because interpersonal experiences tend to hold much more long-term value than any plastic wrapped soon to break thing ever can.
So this year, how about breaking with tradition and laying off the stuff?
Instead of that new doll, electronic video game or stereophonic hi fidelity music replicator, why not give someone the gift of an experience. A lot of people have called me on the fact that if everyone stopped buying, the economy would collapse, and they might be right (I never really understood economics past my piggy bank so I’m assuming). Thankfully, giftless giving is a great way to bolster your local economy (emphasis on local there) and still keep yourself out of the whole production cycle.
Next page: A few ideas for ya:
• Give someone a class that they never would have bought for themselves. I have an odd dream of someday learning to play the entire E.L.O. catalog on the bagpipes but for some reason have never looked into lessons. How psyched would I be if my wife read this and sent some kilt wearing Scotsman by the house to teach me how to play “Wild West Hero” (can someone please send this to the missus for me)?
• Clean up someone’s junk mail by signing them up for a junk mail reduction service. There are plenty of companies to take care of this for you, like Greendimes, who will actually plant five trees for you while they are at it. How cool is that? Eradicate their junk mail and plant some trees in their name–two gifts in one!
• Help someone else in the name of those you care about. By supporting a cause in someone else’s name, you not only help someone else, but you involve your recipient in creating a better world, and perhaps turn them onto something they might not have known about before. We send out a holiday e-card every year and let people know that we have made a micro-loan through Kiva to someone in a developing country. These loans (as small or large as you’d like them to be) help others pull themselves out of the poverty cycle by allowing them to build businesses. We link the newsletter to the actual persons page and the following year update everyone on how we did. Since we started this, every year we have been able to write that the loan we made the previous year was successfully paid back and then invest it in the next person. It’s a great way to share the holiday spirit and involve people in something good.
• Make something. Make a painting, a sculpture, dinner, their bed–whatever it is you think they might like. This is a much more personal way to show someone you care and has the added benefit of potentially costing little to no money.
These are just a few ideas and as always, I’m interested in hearing yours. The important point in all of this is that we show those that we love how much we care about them by NOT adding to the consumption/waste cycle. Let people know that you have strayed from the norm this year (whatever that is) and let them know why. My guess is they’ll appreciate it and you all the more.