Season of giving?
Itís almost Christmas, and itís really not that cold. Well, at least by my 21 Saskatchewan winter standards anyway. The semesterís almost over and Iím coming out the other side alive, with marks that do not represent how little work I actually did. Yet, I watch one commercial reminding me of the fast-approaching Christmas season and the even quicker oncoming pressure of gift-choosing and buying, not to mention finding the non-existent money to buy said gifts with, and Iím in tears.
Somebody call Oprah, because Iím throwing myself one helluva pity party.
Or maybe a guilt trip Ė I canít decide which. Itís understandable to get a little wrapped up in yourself at such a busy time Ė hell, itís practically encouraged, but whatís really getting to me is how often myself, and so many others, practice this lifestyle on a daily basis.
Now, maybe a guilt trip is good at Christmas; it gets us to open our hearts, and our wallets, to causes that need our attention. Unfortunately, we only seem to let ourselves be guilted into it this time of year. And even then, itís not unusual to keep your giving inside your circle of friends, with maybe the odd donation here and there. So why am I feeling so guilty? Because my stressed-out tears arenít for all those who donít have a place to live, never mind enough money to buy gifts: and thatís why Iím upset; the thought of those less fortunate hasnít exactly been a priority in my mind these past few weeks. Does that make me a bad person? I hope not, but it does make me one of very many steeped so deep in our own culture of self-involvement and worry.
My guilt must stem from childhood, when I first began to notice that people became nicer to each other at Christmas. As a kid, this seems great; as I got older, it makes me increasingly upset. As much as I want to see people reach out to others, itís hard to take it as meaningful when niceness only turns on Nov. 30 with the plugging in of the Christmas lights. Cynical? I wish it wasnít, itís not generally my style, but it does lead me to wonder: do we give to truly benefit those we are giving to, or are we giving to make ourselves feel better? Itís understandable as to why many of us only give at consumer-dominated holidays such as Christmas. We get sucked in to spending money we donít have on things others probably donít need, when there are so many out there who canít even get the very basics; and when they do, itís only once a year when they need so much more help.
But like I said, cynicism isnít my style. So I canít sit here and rant about how selfish and greedy our society has become. Itís surprising, really, every time I start to feel down about how low weíve sunk as people, something lifts my spirits. Iíve seen the most preoccupied person stop and not only donate money to a Salvation Army collection basket, but take the time to chat up the collector. Thereís people that donate to needy charities all year long, and simply increase their donation at Christmas. Thereís also a million more examples that go unnoticed that I am sometimes lucky enough to witness, and it makes me feel less helpless and guilty, and more inspired. I know weíre not a society of bad people, weíve just kind of lost our way, but if we look hard enough we can find a way to make a difference. If it has to happen at Christmas, so be it. Letís just see if we can make it last all year.