The holidays have always been a special time for me. When I was younger, I looked forward to the relaxed holiday atmosphere at school (later work). I loved seeing family and friends who had returned from far away places. I enjoyed (and enjoyed!) seasonal treats like eggnog (later hot buttered rum), homemade fudge, and ravioli from my favorite deli. And the gifts! The anticipation of seeing the look on someone’s face when they received something they weren’t expecting, or an item they needed but couldn’t get themselves, was the best feeling I could imagine.
But then something shifted.
I found myself spending my holiday free time trying to find that “special thing” for that “special someone.” My out-of-town family and friends were tough to track down, stuck in “holiday traffic” at the mall, or preoccupied with how behind they were on their shopping. The rum was hot-buttered and the fudge was fluffy, but the festive feasting I once enjoyed (and enjoyed!) seemed rote. There were presents to open, but the gifts I cherished were few and far between.
To paraphrase Charles Dickens, I had been put out of humor with the season.
And so I announced to my friends and family that I wouldn’t be buying them Christmas gifts anymore. I further admonished that they should return the favor. I had enough, I told them. They had enough. Something had to give and it wasn’t going to be us! But it was an empty threat. The season of giving runs deep in me and the thought of not giving anything to anyone left me feeling just as hollow as the mad rush to consume had.
My solution? Conscious capitalism. I didn’t need to stop giving; I needed to give in a way that elevated my existence and the existence of those around me. I needed to support businesses that were lifting people out of poverty; businesses that had caring cultures; businesses that were committed to creating a world in which we can all prosper.
Today, I have set an intention to give well. When I buy from To The Market, I know my dollars are well spent, empowering abuse survivors. When I donate to Heifer International, I know I have helped a family to become self-reliant.
These are the real gifts, significant to the maker, gratifying to the giver, and meaningful to the recipient.
To paraphrase Dickens once again, I honor this intention in my heart and try to keep it all the year.