Generally speaking, I would consider myself a December holiday enthusiast. The excitement started at a very young age with the typical festivities: decorations, family time, and Santa Claus. Now, I will be the first one to admit that I believed Santa was real for far longer than I should have. I mean, what kid would want to stop believing that someone actually listened to their outrageously long list of must-have toys and then picked out the best one to place under the tree?
Maybe it all started there: the list. Even though I had sourly accepted the news that Santa Claus was a figment of my imagination, I still received the same question every year: “What do you want for Christmas?” While this question filled me with no end of excitement in my preteen years (make-up), teenage years (clothes), and college years (gift cards for necessities like gas and groceries), this feeling has morphed for me in recent years.
A few years ago my family started putting together virtual wish lists that we e-mailed to each other. While this was a terrific idea in theory, taking all of the guess work out of gift buying left little to be surprised and excited about. Sure, I had a guarantee that my family would like, and actually use, the gift I’d purchased for them, but where was my enjoyment in actually giving that gift?
During this time, there was a particular Christmas that both inspired me and, in retrospect, made me feel woefully ashamed of my actions. In standard fashion, the virtual wish lists had been sent out, and all that was left to do was to see which items from that list would show up in a nicely wrapped package with a giant bow. One individual from our family decided to actually give a real gift – not a gift to us, but a gift to someone else in our name.
Needless to say, myself and several of my family members were not amused. Where were the gifts that we had picked out? I had put a lot of time and effort into that list – why couldn’t they stick to it?
Last week I received a catalog from the same place that had unknowingly stolen my Christmas present just a few short years before. I started flipping through the catalog and was immediately annoyed that they wanted more money from me (even though it wasn’t my money that had been given to them in the first pace). It was a funny thing though: looking through this catalog, I realized that there was someone out there that was still benefiting from that small donation made just a few years prior. What was the last Christmas present I received that I was still using three years later?
My holiday had become all about the getting. It was then and there that I made a decision: this year, my holiday would be all about the giving.
I called my family and shared with them that this year I would not be sending out a virtual wish list, but had instead chosen a cause to which I wanted to donate. Any money they were planning to spend on a gift for me could either be written into a donation, or they could purchase an item that the organization could use.
I have never been more excited about the upcoming holiday than I am this year. I know that these donations are going to make a difference, and that yes, years from now these donations will still be impacting the organization and the many families that they interact with every day.
So this holiday season, I only have one question for you: will you be getting or will you be giving?
– Lauren Olson, JETPUBS Inc.