As I slogged through December 2010 with a one eye on the wallet, and theother on my Christmas shopping list, I arrived at an important realization: I had stopped enjoying what Christmas had become. As a child, the stressful, time-consuming, expensive parts were hidden away; it was fun and full of excitement. As I grew, I gradually came to realize that Christmas is an industry, a Hallmark holiday. I didn’t care for the time away from family shopping, the constant stress to get everyone something, or the fear of gifting something that the recipient didn’t like.
I arrived at the realization that I was playing along because it was expected of me. I also realized that I had started dreading this song and dance every year.
2010 was my last “regular” Christmas. Starting with 2011, I laid out my desires going forward: Do not buy a gift for me. I will not buy a gift for you. However, I will gladly donate to a charity of your choice, if you’ll do the same for me.
As expected, I received a very mixed reaction to this. Some were happy that they could cross me off their list, some really understood my reasoning, and others pressured me to re-join the commercialized mosh pit. I ended up donating to six different charities, and spent more time with family (instead of shopping). Financially, there was no difference, since I donated what I would have normally spent (which is great). Best of all, my conscious was clear, and I sailed through December with zero regrets.
This year, I will be doing the same. I will gladly donate to a charity of your choice if you will donate to mine: Shriner’s Hospital for Children. Simply shoot me an email letting me know that you donated (no need to tell me how much), and which charitable organization you’d like me to donate to.
As far as why I chose Shriner’s, pull up a chair for story time.
When I was in highschool, the band would send a small detachment to Shriner’s on Christmas Eve to play for the children who were too far from, or too sick to go home. Wanting to help brighten their day, I volunteered in December 2003.
We arrived, got set up, and were ready to greet the children, who then started to filter in. Some were wheeled in on gurneys, others walked, some were in wheelchairs. I was surrounded by scared, sick kids who wanted nothing more than to be well and back at home with their families for Christmas. We played our set, and for a brief moment, the kids were happy and all smiles. As we left, I imagined the smiles fading, and the patients being carted back to their rooms. It really put things in perspective for me, and made sure I didn’t take what I had for granted.
This Christmas, I’d like to help those children smile and get well instead of buying you a gift card or a trinket. I do not chastise or look down on those who choose to do otherwise, nor will you hear anything further on this from me. I figured I’d explain why I won’t be gift swapping (indefinitely) and wanted to make sure friends and family understood why.
Keep in mind what Christmas is all about this holiday, and have a great one!