Nicole Law offers some practical ideas on how to make the upcoming festivities more human and more authentic.
You know Christmas is around the corner when Michael Buble starts piping in while you sip a Gingerbread Latte in a Starbucks downtown. The city is awash with decorations, festive light displays splash across the dark winter streets and the shops are fitted out in their holiday best.
We have commonly associated Christmas with the act of gift-giving. I myself am on the lookout for some Secret Santa gifts for friends and colleagues. I browse websites, compare items across similar stores and add items to my shopping basket online. If I’m not careful, I may find myself falling down the rabbithole of mindless consumerism.
The urge to spend during festive seasons is nothing new – it’s ingrained in our collective consciousness that gift-giving involves an investment in our relationships. It may mean the difference between buying a $50 gift card and the more thoughtful choice of a specific title our friend has been eyeing from their favourite independent bookstore.
This reminds me that gift-giving involves a key element – intentionality. I questioned myself – what motivated me to give items to my loved ones?
Was I giving out of obligation (a sort of societal norm) or was I really giving out of the desire to bring joy to others?
Over the last few years, I have begun to see Christmas not just as an opportunity to deepen my relationships with friends and family but to reach out to the wider community. As part of a yearly Advent tradition (well, it started last year), I have designed sets of Christmas cards by hand and sent them to friends worldwide asking in exchange for a donation to a charity of their choice. Going into the project initially I had no idea what the response would be like.
Regardless, I got my art supplies out, did some high resolution scans and created a form to collect orders. I was truly humbled to see the generosity of friends near and far pour in. The Christmas sceptic (me) was amazed at the level of support and the range of beneficiaries of the project. It was inspiring to see how a simple idea sparked off a wave of generosity – my friends sent these cards onwards to their friends who in turn enquired about the project.
At a time when it may appear that charitable giving is at an all time low and as we bemoan the individualism rife in society, I was able to perceive a different side of the world we live in. People do respond to invitations to help and assist – but sometimes they need that reminder or prompting to follow through on their intention.
A few years ago, charitable giving was not on my list of priorities. I was more concerned about buying gifts for friends and family. That constituted the circle of my concern.
Over the years, this circle has widened. With a little more research, I have become more aware of the needs of local beneficiaries and committed myself to various causes. I am glad to see my friends doing the same. It reminds me that we exist within a wider global collective and that altruism starts within our local communities.
Christmas may indeed be the season of spending and gift exchanges – it can also be a time to step back and reflect a little. How can we best share our resources with those in need?
It can mean volunteering with a local organisation, offering your expertise to a locally-run programme or, yes, donating a sum of money to a charity of your choice.
My advice to you this Christmas is … start small, start where you are and start giving. Sometimes, it really takes just a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glow…….
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