This article is written by Consumerism Commentary’s columnist, Ellen Cooper-Davis. Ellen’s column looks at the role of spirituality within the context of personal finance. For an introduction to this column, see Ellen’s first article, The Pastor and the Purse. Your feedback is welcome.
We know by reports of the annual feeding frenzy that the gift-giving season is fully upon us. Around the country, shopping carts are being filled with giant televisions, blinking toys and neatly packaged gift sets of scented lotion, all so that… well… so that what?
There is nothing inherently wrong with purchasing gifts for those we love. The impulse to give is an old one, a way of symbolizing affection, desire, love, friendship, gratitude and celebration. But it might be worthwhile, as we ponder our lists of people to buy gifts for, to ask some deeper questions.
Who is on your list? If we want our giving to take on deeper meaning, then we might do better focusing our limited resources on celebrating the deepest connections in our lives. When the impulse behind the gift is not mere social ritual, but is instead an expression of deep gratitude for who that person is in your life, then the choosing and giving is no longer a chore, but is instead deeply satisfying.
Consider a homemade gift. If we focus our giving on those who touch our lives most deeply, then we have an opportunity to consider how best to touch them in return. Some of the most meaningful gifts are gifts that are homemade. Making something for someone requires intention, thought, time and a sense of who that person is and what they enjoy. There is sacrifice bound up in them. Care. Homemade gifts can include edibles, crafts, or gifts of your own time, skills or service, or even donations made in the recipient’s name to causes important to them.
Choose gifts thoughtfully. The best gifts are the ones given with thought — the ones that say to the recipient, “I see you, I know who you are, and I value that.” Meaningful gifts are not arbitrary, and they don’t come in vast piles. Volume isn’t the goal, here. Instead, the goal is to reflect your particular connection with that person that you’re selecting a gift for. Those sorts of gifts might not come from big-box stores, but they do come with a lot more heart attached to them. Those are the gifts that will be remembered over a lifetime and treasured.
There are a lot of questions about spirituality and money wrapped up in the holiday season.
- Why are we giving gifts?
- Am I giving according to my values? Theirs?
- What is the deeper meaning of this holiday season?
But there is a deeper question that underscores all of our conversation about holiday spending. In the midst of a difficult economy, squeezed budgets, fights over $2 waffle irons and the continuing rise of competitive spending, that question is simple: What is enough?
Updated December 2, 2011 and originally published December 1, 2011.