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The Price of Giving

December 12, 2015


Now that the Christmas season is upon us, we begin asking ourselves what we think people ‘want’ for the holidays.  More often than not, we think of what people ‘want’ rather than what people ‘need.’ Malls across America are full of people rushing and running around like maniacs trying to gather all the gifts they can for family and friends.  People become immersed in this frantic environment and the idea of Christmas and giving takes on an entirely different meaning. 

A gift is defined as something that we give willingly to someone without payment or expecting anything in return.  However, somewhere along the way big spending corporations rearranged how we think of Christmas and turned it into, “what can we buy for others,” rather than “what can we give to others.” Because of this, we are spending more and more each year on the ‘want’ of the holidays rather than the ‘need.’ 

“Simplify the Holidays,” an e-booklet from the Center for a New American Dream (CNAD), reports that nine in 10 Americans believe holidays should be more about family and caring for others, not giving and receiving gifts, yet the average U.S. consumer plans to spend more this year — about $805 — on holiday shopping than last year.” 

This quote comes from an article written on ways to be environmentally conscious over the holidays, while also raising an important point on how most Americans believe the holidays should be spent. 


To further this point, Ikea Spain conducted a campaign titled, “The Other Letter.” They asked children ages four to nine to write a letter to the Three Kings (Spain’s version of Santa). Like most children, they asked the Three Kings for toys.  After that, the children were asked to write their parents a letter asking them for something. If you’re ready to have your heart pulled, give the video a view.  The children asked for their parents to spend more time with them.  More meals together, time spent playing around the house, and one little girl asked to spend one entire day with her mother.  I don’t have kids, but I think the question that relates to all of us is not what we can buy someone, but instead what we can give to others?


I asked myself that same question as I thought about what to get my family for Christmas.  I knew they didn’t need much- if anything at all.  Some of my neighbors felt the same way about their families.  Because of this, we all decided to take the money we would have spent on family members who were well off and instead sponsored a family through HELP of Ojai.  This family has five kids, and every single one of them wanted a jacket/sweatshirt for Christmas.  I’m sure they wanted toys, being that they are all children, but more importantly they needed a jacket to keep warm, so that’s what they asked for. (However, we also bought them a football, a doll, and puzzle to make sure they didn’t just receive clothes.  Probably not what they ‘needed,’ but hopefully it will bring some child-like joy to their Christmas morning.)


Families all across the country will have no presents to give this holiday season.  Through shoebox drives, food pantries, and adopting families, we are all making a difference for those families that need someone to give them a little joy this holiday season.  As one YouTuber pointed out in the comment section of Ikea’s video: “Society has covered us with materialistic desires and we forget that the greatest gift is to know that there's someone out there that cares about you.”

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