Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
The holidays are upon us again. It seems like it happens earlier and
earlier every year. I’m not a Grinch and not a cheapskate. But I feel
like one every time I lift a twenty-pound newspaper full of sale ads, or
when I list everyone (family, friends, work colleagues, newspaper boy)
who might expect a gift from me or who might give me one. Do you
have any good ideas on how to communicate my reluctance to spend
scarce resources on consumables at a time when so many people are
suffering from income inequity and real financial distress? Thankfully I
am not among them but I feel much more of a responsibility to help
the needy than to gift the entitled. I and everyone I know are among
the 99%. How can I raise consciousness above credit card balances?
It’s not too early to start communicating your preference for non-
gifting. Whenever you’re in a conversation about the holidays, tell
people that you’re not doing any traditional gifting this year. Any.
Explain that the politics of the day have made you realize that you
want to use the holidays to share ideas more than stuff. Ask anyone
whom you might think might gift you to do the same, or risk feeling
that they’ve spent their money on the wrong person.
Put your energy into list making, with a cover letter. The cover letter
should explain your philosophy of the season. You can wrap it in a nice
card, and accompany it with anything from a gourmet chocolate bar to
a little fine tea, something that costs less than $5 per person. The lists
can be: lists of charities to which you’ve donated the money you would
otherwise have spent on gifts; or great books you’ve read and/or
movies or music you’ve encountered during the year that touched you
in some way; or names of organizations in your community that need
volunteers. Say you hope they’ll understand your choice and perhaps
even emulate it in the future. End by inviting them to participate in a
one-day action helping a specific local charity. They may not
understand or participate. But you’ll be walking your talk.