Nov – Dec 2004

Ah yes. Once again ’tis the season for copious consumption, conspicuous overindulgence, capacious extremity in all things. We are, after all, a consumer society. We live to spend money, exist to make enough to pay off the post-celebratory bills.

In seasons past, I’ve presented a book list at this time of obligatory gift-giving. If one is to give a gift, I believe a book is a valuable gift to give. A book comments on the commitment the giver has to the givee, shows a genuine interest in the givee’s passions, activities, growth and entertainment. A book creates a lasting bond between the giver and the givee. Both my parents have books they have lovingly cherished for decades, remembering not only a favoured poem or passage, but also that the book was given by Granny or bought for school at some sacrifice. Books have an intrinsic value. If you must buy gifts, buy books.

But this year, I’m heading in a different direction. I live in a city where consumers seem to discard usable furniture, clothing, objects and food with ease. I live on a continent where mass consumerism shouts from billboards, televisions, the Internet, magazines. I live in a place where we are valued for what we consume, where overconsumption keeps the economy rolling, where frugality is viewed with distain as some kind of peasant suffering.

When I review my Christmas list, no one on it is particularly suffering. They all have roofs over their heads and food in their bellies. They have clothes on their backs and books on their shelves. And generally, they have much, much more besides. Most of their wishes, their desires for specific objects have also already been fulfilled. Really, what do they need that I could give them?

So this year, I’m changing strategies. Money I would normally spend on gifts for people who don’t really need them, whose homes are already cluttered with stuff, is instead going to charity. I’m looking for worthy causes in their neighbourhoods or in Canada or around the world so I can give a little money to something worthwhile, to someone who will genuinely appreciate it because they have so little, to something that will help make the world a better place. I’ll send cards telling people on my list who I’ve donated to in their name and I hope they’ll understand.

I urge you to do something similar. Just think, if all the money we’re expected to spend at Christmas was streamed into something of genuine value, something that really mattered, what a difference we could make. Happy Holidays to all and loving wishes for a peaceful New Year.

© Catherine Jenkins 2004

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