The Materialistic Christmas
By Ken Walker-
I heard a story recently about a mother who was distraught over her inability to spend close to a thousand dollars on Christmas presents for her children. No matter where you live in America, you are likely to have heard some variation of such a tale.
At the same time, this mother needed car repairs to make sure she could take care of an ongoing legal obligation. Yet, somehow she ranked Christmas gifts at the top of her priority list.
It’s sad that we can get so overwhelmed by our nation’s love affair with materialism that if we can’t keep up with the Joneses during “the holidays,” we somehow feel deprived.
Yet I know how this woman feels. I endured similar distress 30 years ago. It happened at the close of my first year of self-employment, when I likely would have earned as much money working at a fast-food restaurant or other minimum wage outlet.
My income that year looked like a Bell curve. It started out low, increased around the middle of the year and then slid back down during the fall.
Come Christmas day, there was nothing under the tree. To make matters worse, no family members were able to visit that year and my stepson was in jail for violating his probation.
What seemed so horrible at the time turned out to be far less humiliating than expected. For one, my stepson wasn’t down in the dumps over a lack of Christmas presents. The jail had visitation hours that day and he was just glad to see us since.
Nor did my wife and I suffer any great personal anguish because we couldn’t buy each other gifts. In fact, years we ago we dispensed with this practice. We really didn’t need any more sweaters or personal trinkets around the house, nor did we need to spend money to prove our love for each other.
As for our extended family, long ago we reduced the need to try to buy presents for the ever-growing roster. All the adults drew names and bought a gift for that one person. Last year, we decided to forego the gift exchange so we could use the money to provide food, clothing and toys for a needy family.
Flat Screen Mania
What started out long ago as a gesture to exchange gifts in honor of the birth of Jesus has turned into something far different. I got a taste of that last week when a friend posted a link to an offer for an 85-inch, ultra high-definition TV priced just shy of $40,000. He added a note to read the comments and chuckle. I did and indeed they were amusing.
With tongue obviously in cheek, one guy wrote that he and his wife bought one after selling their daughter into slavery. A woman talked of hesitating to buy one until she saw two AA batteries came with the remote. Another said he thought about using the money to pay for his daughter’s wedding but figured the TV would last longer than the marriage.
Funny, yes, but still sad. The mere existence of $40,000 televisions shows how easy it is to get carried away and think the more money you spend on someone for Christmas, the more you love them. Not true.
Rethinking Your Approach
I have no illusions about changing the shopping binges that now help undergird our economy. Yet, I still believe that grassroots efforts can make a difference. So if only a few people rethink their approach to Christmas materialism, then writing this blog will have been worth it.