Dec 25, 2011

Happy Holidays from Sustainable Seattle

I just got finished opening my presents from my mom, her boyfriend, and my sister and I have a few hours to reflect to myself since my family members have all gone off to other gatherings they are expected at. I looked at the floor of the living room, covered with opened presents from and for the four of us, scattered around with the miscellaneous wrapping paper or bow that didn’t make it into the recycle or trash, I can’t help but think about how the holidays vary for different people.

Back when I was in high school and Facebook was just getting popular, friends used to post pictures and updates about all the presents they got. “I got two Coach purses, a new laptop, an iPod…” Needless to say, some of the kids I went to high school with were quite spoiled and grew up in what we would call the “nice” neighborhood. (But to put it in perspective, their houses could eat my house for a midnight snack, and the rumor is that the neighborhood bylaws still had it written, although it wasn’t talked about or followed, that African Americans couldn’t live there.) The problem wasn’t so much how much they got, or what they got, because I myself grew up with a family who was always…comfortable…and they could tend to go overboard for the holidays. It was the fact that people felt the need to run around and brag about everything they got like it was a competition of who could get the most stuff.

So, almost 6 years later, looking around my living room post-Christmas-morning made me think about the old times, how far we have come, and what it all means in the greater world. At just 1 PM, I have already had two friends who had texted me “Merry Christmas” also ask what I got. I don’t understand the point of this… I'm not embarrassed of what I got, how much I got (whether a lot or too little), or any combination. I merely question their motivation. To me, Christmas is not about gifts. This does not mean that I didn’t give or receive any. But what makes me happy is making other people happy. Many of my gifts, especially for my friends, were homemade craft projects. I made my sister a set of earring hangers made out of two pieces of wall art I got at a secondhand store for two dollars each and a roll of lace ribbon I got for $1. It was the hours of hammering, sawing, and cutting, and hot gluing that really “cost” me.

This year for Christmas, I vowed to donate something equivalent to everything I got. If I got a new sweater, I would donate a few of my old sweaters. I am encouraging my family to do the same, because even in the economic hard times the world is going through, we still have SO MUCH STUFF.

As your holidays wrap up, and you are looking to see what you got, what you didn’t get, what you feel you need or don’t need, I encourage you to critically evaluate your situation and try to downsize. Whether that means regifting something you aren’t going to use, donating something you got that you didn’t want or don’t need, or donating something old that has been replaced by a new item. Always remember, there is someone out there who has less, but they are usually the ones that need less and want less too. All you NEED, is what you NEED to survive. This doesn’t mean we should feel guilty for having more than that, but I hope that you will all take a moment to think of the less fortunate with me.

Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Happy Holidays from everyone at Sustainable Seattle.

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