This time of year always comes at me like a category five storm I am not sure I will survive. Honestly I have come to dread the “holiday season”. When did Christmas become a whole season that begins about Halloween and last until early January? Or in some cases June when the neighbors finally decide it is warm enough to take their lights down. But I digress. The storm of the Holidays really takes the enjoyment out of it for me. People just get downright grouchy! Budgets overextended, exhaustion, parent guilt, kids inevitable they don’t get the one gift that they never actually mentioned wanting. Not so much killing the spirit of Christmas, but the spirit of gift giving in general. Giving just for the sake of giving, with no thought to the recipient.
Anyway, enough of the bah humbug. I combat this dread and greed every year by diverting some of our holiday budget to donate gifts. I make the kids part of it, which helps them (hopefully) understand all they have. I used to do this thru the building of my office; they had a tree with ornaments representing children from the City of Chicago that could be sponsored. A few years we did it thru church, same thing grab some ornaments from the tree. The church experience was strange, it became a contest of who could get there first and get “the good” ornaments. The cool kids if you will. I was a bit lot turned off. I felt a little disconnected from both processes as well. Last year I tried something different and I really liked the program. I donated thru the local food bank gift basket program.
I don’t have any delusions that Oak Park is suffering community. I realize most people in the OPRF area faring quite well in life. But I also realize, regardless of the average success, it does not mean everyone is having that success. The minimum qualifying annual income for a family of five is $47,712, which is a challenge in any community. I like the idea of giving closer to home. It builds a stronger community people on the receiving end will likely pay it forward. Chances are, locally.
This program also makes it a little more personal. You let them who you wish to sponsor, single person, family, or a senior citizen. You then receive bio sheets on the people; name, age, wants needs, size etc. It is appalling to me to compare the wants and needs of the families we sponsor to my children’s lists for Santa. First of all, none of the sheets had anything listed for wants, not even the kids. They were all listed as needs. The needs being things my kids take for granted; winter coats, boots etc. The fourteen year old girl listed her needs as Dove Body Wash* and Red Lipstick, and 18” hair extensions (you recall the Google incident). I mean, come on, that is in huge contrast to the average teenage girls needs!
This is THE bright spot in the season for me. I love doing the shopping for this, dare I say more than for…no I don’t dare say it. But I will say, without a doubt I get more out of doing this than the recipients. I know that holds true for just about everyone people. Giving feels good!
*Shopping last night for the Dove Body Wash I came to learn that is no behind a locked case. The store clerk told me it is the HOT item. I guess Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty.” was a success. Perhaps too much of a success.