This holiday season started with a very uncharacteristic lack of Christmas spirit. We usually love the decorating, gift buying, wrapping and gift giving. We thought that if we just tried the usual Christmas spirit things we would come around. So, I listened intently to Christmas music, began shopping, and even have a few early gifts. It just didn't click.
It took some time to pinpoint some of our disenchantment. I am still not entirely sure that we have it figured out, but we have some ideas. We have just had a lot of changes in our gift giving traditions and a few of our usual joyful giving relationships have become more about the stuff and reciprocity than about the celebrating. We are also aware of all of the stuff that we have in our house and our friends and family seems to be working hard to manage the stuff in their own houses. Is it right to add to the accumulation of stuff? Is it good for our friends and family? Is it good for the environment?
Our idea was that we would give donations to two of our favorite causes and for those that were not already in progress for gift purchases, they would get a card and note telling them we had made a donation to honor our friends and family. We thought about this be a good way to celebrate the people we care about and to help others at the same time.
Our causes this year were Heifer International and K-State's Proud to be a Wildcat scholarship.
We have still had this feeling that it's not quite what we want from the Christmas season. The giving seems off...The donations were great and for exceptional causes, but the impact is very distant. And, selfishly, I think my usual giving traditions have given me back something that gift cards and donations aren't really matching.
Then, today, I read this great article in Ode magazine. Actually, the whole issue is devoted to the subject of giving and what it means for us as individuals and for the larger community. I am only about a third of the way through the magazine, but am really feeling challenged and intrigued by the information and perspectives. One element in particular has moved me to action and has created some feelings of hope in this season typically associated with enthusiastic giving.
I have adopted the 29-day giving challenge. The premise is simple - give something for 29 days. What you give can be anything - a smile, kind words, a small gift, an action, etc. You can read all about it and watch a short video from founder Cami Walker at the 29 Gifts Movement site.
Today's gift was two small acts of kindness. At a department store in Topeka, I watched an older couple pay for a crock pot and discuss how they were going to get it from the store to their car. They had a cart and could get the item to their car, but there wasn't a cart return close to their car. We were parked in the same row and we offered to return the cart to the store. Simple. They seemed really relieved and my husband ran the cart back to the store in two minutes.
Our next gift was paying for the coffee for the person behind us in the Starbuck's drive thru. We didn't know her and it was a little things that hopefully made her day!
Day one down and now 28 more opportunities to give. I can't wait to get creative and share the results.