Thanksgiving week is a week of mixed emotions for me. On one hand, I love it because I get to spend some extra time with my family, eat some really great food, watch football (lifelong Cowboys fan…I can’t help it) and spend some extra time focusing on all the things in my life for which I am thankful. On the other hand I loathe it because this is the time of year that consumerism is running on all eight cylinders with a nitrous boost. Everybody is spending money we don’t have on things they don’t need (or sometimes want) so that we can show someone just how much we love them. Our television screens, magazines, newspapers, radio stations and websites are jam-packed with ads for the latest, hottest, fanciest and best products that money can buy. And don’t forget the stores. The stores make it so easy for us, don’t they? Mega deals, door busters, all-nighters, early birds, free shipping and prices so low you have to see them to believe them. Black freakin’ Friday.
Somehow, we lose sight of what the holiday season is all about (and I don’t mean in the religious sense). Regardless of what you celebrate this time of year, we are all blinded by the blizzard and we forget that the season is supposed to be about family, about selflessness, about caring and about appreciation. Instead, many of us focus on what we are going to get rather than what we already have or what we can give to those that are without.
Last year, after Jdimytai Damour was trampled to death in a Long Island Wal-Mart on Black Friday, I woke up. I realized that even though I was not at that Wal-Mart nor do I ever even shop on Black Friday, I was partly responsible for Damour’s death. I was a cog in the retail machine that was powering that greedy mob that took his life so they could get a bargain on a waffle maker or a LCD television. As consumers, we all have tiny specks of his blood on our hands because we continue to measure our self-worth by what we own rather than by what kind of person we are and we continue to buy without giving much consideration of the actual “cost” of our appetite for stuff. We all, like it or not, bear some responsibility.
So last December, in a moment of clarity, I decided that I no longer would ask for or expect gifts for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries or anything else. I decided to let my loved ones know that I do not want anything anymore. What I quickly realized was that while I was trying to do the “right thing” I was depriving people of doing something that made them feel good. I never looked at it that way before. I quickly modified my stance on giving me gifts to the following:
“I do not wish to receive any gifts for __________. If you feel strongly about giving me something please consider making a donation to Responsible Men or choose a charity that is meaningful to you and make a donation in my name.”
I have to admit most of my family did not know how to respond. I think most didn’t believe me and many decided to buy me things anyway. I heard things like “yeah…but what to you REALLY want?” However, some of them did simply make a meaningful (and greatly appreciated) donation. That was the best feeling in the world knowing that I was able to make a difference (even if it was a small one) in someone’s life by giving up something I never had in the first place. It was a feeling that I had not had since I was a little boy opening all those gifts that, at the time, meant so much to me. Ironic, eh?
So, once again I am here to state that in the spirit of the season I do not wish to receive any gifts for the holidays. However if you feel strongly about giving me something, please consider donating to Responsible Men or choose a charity that is meaningful to you and make a donation in my name.
I would also like to challenge you to join me this year. Put your own wants aside and see how it feels to help someone else this year. It may feel like you are making some sort of personal sacrifice, but in the end you will be getting something much more valuable than anything on your wish list.
If you plan to participate in “Spirit of the Season” leave a comment to let me know. Also, please post a link to this on your Facebook and Twitter pages and encourage your friends and family to participate. I would love to see this catch fire and spread across the country. Let’s see how big of an impact we can make this year!