Here we are again in the season of consumer frenzy. It is easy for most of us to heap scorn on the Black Friday shootings and fist fights in WalMarts and the like. It is quite a bit more difficult to disown the urge to buy that caused it. Kids are the biggest reason we need to shop. As we all know, they don’t understand the madness of using up all our resources making new stuff that we need to buy and sell in order to keep our economy going. They only see their friends and the expectations about “The Season” that they share.
There is certainly everything right with showing our love and connection by exchanging gifts. The fact is, though, that corporate advertising and our own tacit consent to a long tradition of buying from them builds expectations for the kinds of gifts that only corporations can provide. A lot of us can see that we need to change this tradition, but we don’t intend to be the Grinch to our little loved ones at this special time of the year.
I don’t know about you, but, for me, it is a case of damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Part of me insists that I resist the urge to buy presents and instead make them or give none at all. I usually begin thinking about making presents about a month before Christmas. I always find that the gifts I would like to make and give require way more time than I have. I don’t know why I can’t think of the kinds of gifts that live up to the couple of hours of loving attention that I want to give to each person, or at least start thinking a little earlier. In the end, I usually end up having to buy a little something from the corporate sector, especially for our grandson. And so, I serve myself a double helping of guilt.
If we need to buy, we should try to buy locally homemade goods from our friends and neighbors. I’m hoping that someday they will be able to support themselves with sales throughout the year instead of depending on the Seasonal frenzy, but, until then, we should try to support them.
I find that the only way to deal with this is to deconstruct the whole phenomenon and take the little steps that I am able to take to consume less while being careful to nurture my joy and serenity, without which all my gifting efforts are in vain. Whatever the effort you put out, it is not really a big deal in the long run. Even a complete failure to produce material gifts can be forgiven if you remain fun to be with, that is, if you can give the gift of yourself. I make this sound easy, but, believe me, I struggle with this every year, as Elizabeth, my wife, will tell you.
For those loved ones that understand the consumer madness, I can send a card (hopefully homemade) or maybe only an email or phone call; it’s the thought that counts. I like to have a party on Christmas Eve for friends that don’t have family or other engagements. Here is a place where I always splurge on store bought goodies: exotic fruits, cheeses, sweets, and beverages. We will roll out our homemade baked goods, pickles, dried fruit, and wine as well so I don’t feel too bad about that. No matter how bad things get, I think that we will always be able to find some exotic foods that come from afar. One of my favorite quotes from sometime sage Billy Sandeford is “Everything in moderation…..including moderation!”
Transition means we start from where we are and we make changes as we are able. It doesn’t mean we fret and berate ourselves for our unsustainable lifestyle. It does mean that we educate ourselves about the size and nature of the dilemma we are in and that we do make an honest effort to move toward lowering our carbon footprint by living more simply. I find that the easiest time to change a habit is when there is something I need to do to maintain it that is a real pain in the butt, i.e. foregoing purchasing a new dryer and, instead, getting a drying rack. Change is hard, but sometimes sticking to business as usual is harder. More often, making the right choice is just a matter of being awake and aware when you arrive at a fork in the road where you can just as easily go one way or the other. No pain!
So my advice, for what it’s worth, (to you and me) is to chill and have fun, but don’t do everything just because you always have. And, if you need to buy, buy local. Everybody will thank you for it.