Meaningful Gifts Simplify the Holidays
This is one of an occasional post from Margaret Epperheimer, a seven-year member of Next Door’s Board of Directors.
The crystal clear, warm Saturday found my Willow Glen neighbors and me outside stringing multi-colored lights. The annual ritual of decorating when the tree truck arrives on our street the first weekend in December is the real holiday kick-off for us. It’s a time to reconnect before the sightseers cruise our neighborhood each evening, enjoying the festive displays.
In addition to getting updates on kids and grandkids, we trade holiday plans and – in recent years – lament the excesses of the season. Although most of us are reasonably well-off, employed or comfortably retired, the theme of our chats was similar to last year’s: simplify. Let’s put up fewer lights, blow-up displays and lawn ornaments. Let’s be less frenetic and more focused on enjoying the season and each other. Let’s think before we give and give in a more thoughtful and meaningful way.
Imagine, we groused, that stores open now at midnight Thanksgiving to get the most out of Black Friday shopping. Depending on whose numbers you follow, retail sales were up 24% over last year, and Cyber Monday (the online version of Black Friday) saw online transactions grow 36%. Luxury goods sales were up almost 18%. We’re torn between celebrating consumer confidence, which could portend a healthier economy, and understanding it will be a long time before the suffering among us will enjoy better times, even if a recovery is truly in the works.
These days, my neighbors and friends talk more about divesting than acquiring things. They want to simplify and streamline their lives and their surroundings. Displays of luxury labels and expensive jewelry are off-putting. Unused gifts that stay in a drawer or gather dust and clutter their homes are not as welcome as they might have been a few years ago. Folks are more interested in receiving and giving in a way that makes a difference.
Tell people, they say, we don’t want more “things” this holiday season, we want meaning. Honor me, they say, by giving to someone who needs things more than I do. That would be far more satisfying and bring me more joy, they say, than receiving something I don’t want or can’t use. Make a contribution in my name to a worthy cause that’s important to me. And if you don’t know what’s important to me, make a contribution to a cause that’s important to you, they say.
There are endless opportunities in our community to honor each other while making a lasting difference. What if, for example, everyone who goes to a holiday gathering this season foregoes the host/hostess bottle of wine gift and gives a $25 contribution to a special cause? Next Door’s “$25 Saves Lives” campaign is one idea (http://www.nextdoor.org/door-helps-millions-find-safety/). You can do a one-time donation or sign up for $25 a month. In case you’re interested, that’s what I’d like as a gift.