There is so much STUFF in my house. And there’s about to be a whole bunch more. It’s the holiday season and “gift-a-palooza”, a term my daughter has given to the over-buying my family has indulged in for decades, is just around the corner. The thought of it is making me uncomfortable, more so this year than ever. This feeling started a couple of years ago, but this year, after months of following the MicroMundo (and recently the Mayan Families) blog, I’m really having trouble reconciling the unfathomable gap between the have’s (us) and the have-not’s. Who among us has food or basic clothing on our want list (designer jeans and cashmere sweaters do not count as basic clothing)? More importantly, how many of us have anything on our list that is actually a need? We all work hard and deserve nice things, but where’s the line between ‘nice things’ and extravagance? And at what point does extravagance become, well, wrong?
I’ve given a lot of thought to this lately. I am absolutely no Mother Theresa. In fact, I’m not a Jess, Ronnie or Stephanie – or even close. Not only am I not willing to give up hot showers and air-conditioning, I’m not even willing to forego a closet full of clothes, purses that match my shoes, jewelry that matches my outfits, or a bottle of wine with dinner. I like my life and I’m not looking to change it in any substantial way. But do I need more?
Well, I really do need a new bathrobe (my husband was so sick of my warm but ratty old bathrobe that he threw it away after last winter). Does it need to be the $100+ designer robe that he’ll probably buy? No. And I really could use a new purse and he knows how much I love Coach, so that’s what he’ll probably do. And, BAM!, there’s $500.
No wonder I feel this way. Thanks to the girls, I’m now painfully aware of what that $500 could do (or make it $400 after you subtract $50 for a robe and $50 for a purse): Sponsor 2 children’s elementary education for a year, with enough left over for a Christmas tamale basket. Or provide 12 of those baskets, which will feed families of 10 (not standing rib roasts or turkeys, but rice and beans and tamales). That money could secure a family’s housing for 6 or 7 months, buy nearly four years worth of pain medicine for someone in need, or 80 pairs of simple shoes for those that have none (not the wrong size heel or color, but none).
What to do? I’m not going to deny myself or those who enjoy buying gifts for me completely and ask them to make a donation instead. I’m just not that good and I know that would make some of them uncomfortable. What I am going to do instead is ask my family and friends to avoid extravagant or excessive spending on me and to be conscious of such spending in general. I’m going to ask them to consider making a donation instead of bringing a hostess gift to the countless parties they’ll attend this season (make it in the hostess’ name), and encourage their guests to do the same. I’ll ask them to consider putting just a little less in each stocking and instead buy a food basket so a family can enjoy a traditional Christmas meal. I’ll ask them – I’m asking them – to take a look around at what they have and ask themselves just how much more they really need?
We’re not going to save the world, but we can certainly change lives. And less STUFF in my house will be a reminder that some of the lives changed were our own.