Christmas is a time of giving. But what makes a good gift?
When I was a child, I had great joy and wonderful anticipation of the gifts I would receive at Christmas. This is a natural and cherished part of children's lives around the world. But now that I am an adult, the emotional attachment I have to material things has diminished. Over the years, I have received and probably given many gifts that I nor the recipients wanted or needed. What is the true value of those gifts?
Habitually, I have spent at least $500 dollars, sometimes as much as $1000 dollars, giving gifts at Christmastime to my friends and relatives. Was the emotional payback of those gifts really worth the investment I made? Are the recipients of those gifts receiving any real value, apart from the temporary joy of opening their gift?
A few years ago, I was driving through Washington D.C. around Christmas time, seeing dozens of homeless people living on the street. Suddenly, I did not feel very joyful about my Christmas presents. How can I feel good about what I have, in abundance, when these people have almost nothing? Why should I accept gifts with little or no practical or emotional value, when human beings are suffering in the cold winter with almost nothing?
People are suffering, in our own communities where we live and work.
The following year, I vowed to myself that my Christmas was going to be better. I was going to help these people with gifts that would really make a difference in their lives -- warm winter clothing. I was going to spend my money on a gift that really mattered -- the knowledge that I have helped to reduce the suffering of those living on the streets.
Imagine all the money that you, your friends and family spend on each other every Christmas, and imagine that instead, this year, that money was going to provide comfort to those people who are living on the fringes of our society, who lack basic human necessities that the rest of us take for granted. If you believe in the spirit of Christmas, this may be the best gift you could ever give.
Are the presents we get really that valuable to us? Imagine you were living on the street in January, and how valuable it would be to receive a warm jacket, thermal socks, and thermal underwear, after living without these things for weeks.
Children deserve to get an emotional reward at Christmas, so please don't forgo giving them your love and a some presents to play with all year. But consider redirecting what you spend on your fellow adults.
Consider speaking to all your friends and family this year, and deciding together to forgo giving presents to each other. Instead, donate $200 each to help put warm clothes on the homeless this winter. This is probably much less than you would normally spend at Christmastime, don't you think? You will actually be saving money over your normal Christmas expenses. Imagine if all your friends and family did this... what a significant impact you would have on the lives of dozens of people. If you cannot donate that much, consider giving whatever you can reasonably afford.
This website is intended to help direct Christmas giving to local charities that are directly involved in providing winter clothing for the homeless. This winter, (2013-2014) is the second winter for this website, and I am focusing this year on the Washington D.C. area. I hope to list more charities in other cities next year and the year after.
I am hoping for you to embrace this idea as an annual tradition among your families and friends. Talk to all of your friends and family, and see what you can do. Be sure to talk with them before they have bought too many presents!
If your ogranization would like to be added to this website, please contact me by email (see below).
I select only one organization per city. Each organization I post must meet these Conditions, and make these Promises.
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please use the subject line ’A Better Christmas’ in your email.
© Copyright 2013 Kurt Snyder