A decade ago I wrote a letter to the editor for our local paper describing our family approach to holiday giving. It inspired a deluge of mostly negative responses – the most humorous labeling it “unchristian”.
What we do is try to give time rather than money as that levels the playing field for all. We choose 5 others via lottery and have a maximum budget of $100 for the lot. Children under 10 are treated separately like normal kids. It is considered a very “grown up” thing to do this by kids in my family. The drawing is on the 4th of July and I usually start working on projects in August so as to not get too swamped. I aim for 10 hours on each and have finished 3 as of last Sunday. I have a slightly different concept of family than the rest of my family, and have a total of 7 projects this year.
My father is brilliant at this and writes special poetry. He thinks about it all year and violates the rules by choosing some of the people he gives to (by doing more than his 5) .. so my mother is always on his list. My skills are not great, but I make little sketches and build things. The variety of gifts I have received over the years and the thought and love that went into them has been amazing, but that doesn’t match the excitement and joy that comes with giving something that has come from my own hands. And there is an additional bonus: nothing to return the day after Christmas.
What is striking is that this extreme customization of feeling and love is considered out of the mainstream and “crackpot”. We aren’t doing it to save money and probably give more to charities than we would have spent on gifts.
If something this simple is considered radical and “hippy”, I fear that changing consumer patterns is extremely difficult.
Steve Crandall is a gifted scientist with a big heart. We are very fortunate to have him enrich La Marguerite with his frequent comments. You can follow him on his blog.