From the end of October to the close of every year, we are besieged by an ever changing array of point of sale; shops rack ‘em, pack ‘em and stack ‘em to extract every last red cent out of us. Moving from bright orange and black, which seem to signify All Hallows’ Eve, (for pumpkins I guess, who knows? It certainly has little or no bearing on the original festival which has been summarily hijacked and now means nothing more than dressing up and mugging people for sweets); through turkeys and glossing over the persecution and extermination of Native Americans; through to fat men in red suits (thank you Coca Cola) again the meaning of the multitude of festivals that were celebrated around the Winter Solstice have been summarily hijacked; to Auld Lang Syne and New Years Eve which basically means councils and cities blasting off thousands of dollars/pounds worth of fireworks to out-do each other, what a waste of money and resources that is. Every light bulb in Australia is powered by coal fired stations, yet a trip to the local DIY shop had huge packets of external lights for us to decorate our house stacked everywhere to make us feel all festive, in the middle of bloody summer! We are told that unless we buy, buy, buy we cannot be happy, fulfilled or even good parents/friends/relatives unless we purchase the ideal gift for our loved ones.
More often than not, gifts are purchased by a person in the middle of a buffet of ‘ideal present ideas’, boxed packs of goods that are cheaper to buy separately, but it saves you wrapping up 2 or 3 things. Items that will be exclaimed over, then put in a cupboard, forgotten about, sold on, or at best, given to charity to be resold. Go on, tell me – what did you get last year for presents? I’ll bet you anything, you can’t remember. But most people I am reading this week, this month, seem to have recognised that buying things on credit cards, extending the world-wide debt that is crippling us all in so many ways, is a pointless, fruitless exercise when so many more things could be given – for free, or if you must buy something, then give something worthwhile. All the magazines in the paper this weekend were full of gift ideas across luscious photo spreads, but all the columnist were saying they were fed up to the back teeth with buying ‘things’ and urging us to give and spread love and joy through the world instead. Reverend Ed Bacon at the All Saints Church in Pasadena, California, who created an outcry when he said earlier this year that ‘Being gay was a gift from God’ says that the sooner we realise we are the human family and come from a place of love, not a place of fear; and who reminds people weekly in his sermons (which are a great podcast available here) that God is inclusive, not exclusive has been saying the same thing for years. We don’t need ‘things’, we don’t need to add to the pile of useless objects in our homes. While we are slowly drowning in clutter, people are starving, wars are being fought, and people are worrying about what to buy for Christmas?
Christmas has become too commercialised, with most children just equating it with presents, how many they get, rather than the thought that went into buying them, and in truth would probably prefer to be played with and taken for a walk than be parked in front of a DVD anyway. Already we’ve been told not to buy too much for our niece and nephew as any gift we give will get lost in the melee of paper being ripped off parcel after parcel. We’re also told by councils that we need to recycle, reduce and reuse in the name of protecting the only thing keeping us alive, the planet. Cyclical weather systems or not, we cannot imagine that everything we have taken out and taken for granted from the earth, the species that are already extinct and those on the brink, and the swathes of deforestation and mining can’t not be having an impact on the fragile ecosystems that support and sustain us. Mother Nature will find a way, the balance will be restored eventually, and it beggars belief that for all the efforts we put in to doing our bit by recycling where we can, to using less chemical based cleaners, the powers that be seem to be more worried about jobs, rather than if they don’t do something, there won’t be any jobs to worry about. I hope Copenhagen will bring some sort of result, but I doubt it, there are too many egos in the room. We’re also doing our bit, you’ll all get a Christmas email instead of a Christmas card, you can print it out if you want, the sentiment will be the same – you’ll just get less glitter over the carpet.
So this Christmas, let’s all try something different. You could give from the OXFAM catalogues, buying things people need in the third world, goats, bee-hives, looms, even toilets. You could give your time, make a pledge to donate a day or weekend a month. I volunteer to help families with disabled children have respite care; we take them out, play with them, educate people in the community by being seen en masse with children with visible signs like Down’s Syndrome, to less visible signs like autism, Angelman or Prader-Willi Syndromes amongst others. We raise awareness by answering children’s point blank questions, returning older people’s stares, we make damn sure these children have a good time, but also come away knowing we’ve made a difference to the other people in the family who work, live and love these valuable people 24/7. Dan and I are in the process of proceeding through checks to open our home to a child on the same scheme, but we host them on our own. We’re saving up days out to take whomever we choose and who chooses us, working towards a whole weekend of respite care a month.
But above all this year, let’s be grateful for what we do have, instead of thinking we need more. I am blessed with my family, my friends, my life. I have no need of anything, I have 4 walls and a roof over my head, more than enough clothes to wear, food in the cupboard, I can walk into a dentist, optician, doctor and get anything I need that is aching or not working 100% looked at, I am typing this on a laptop, I have a car I can drive, I have just upgraded my phone to the latest gadget, I have a treasure chest full of DVDs (literally), I have bookcases groaning with books upstairs. The majority of people in my life are in good health, for those that aren’t, they are regularly in my thoughts and we contact each other, so I can check in on them from all the way over here. While I am in the middle of a ‘wobble’ at the moment, I know this too will pass, but for children born into poverty or with congenital defects, this too will not pass, nor for their families. I will spend the two weeks I have on leave over Christmas and New Years going through all my books, DVDs and clothes, rationalising my belongings; asking do I truly need this, do I use it, do I love it? If I can’t answer yes to 2 or even all 3 questions, it is being given away to charity or sold, I’m trimming down and downsizing my life to things that are important to me, not extraneous, putting my money where my mouth is.
As we move into a new decade, let us all take time out to take stock of what is really important – family and friends, not ‘things’. Not cars, nor houses, not Smeg fridges, not iPhones, nor Nintendos, not DVDs, or CDs, not Laptops or books. But are all the people we love happy and healthy? And if not, why not? Ask yourself what you can do to help, they probably need you to listen, not to buy them anything. We need time with each other, sharing tears, laughter, breaking bread and chatting, not trying to out-do each other with what we brought. Let’s keep the joy thing going for all seasons – Oprah
Have a great week, I intend to.