I know I haven’t written a blog post in a very long time, although I write daily, I have not felt like posting on the blog. I think it is all the social media posts for the farm and farmers market and how “social” I have been these last six months, putting any more of myself out there just seemed like too much.
It probably doesn’t help that I often question my lack of writing skills, which is evident to me with the squiggly lines of multiple colors all over this page. As an English student I often had lots of red ink and was famous for run on sentences, let’s hope there aren’t any English majors or real authors reading this. Though, often I am told how missed my blog is when I do not write and that I need to write a book. There’s at least a dozen of you that read my ramblings, now that’s a gift! So, with the market winding down and 2023 coming to an end I wanted to get at least one blog post up before we move on to 2024.
This morning while sitting in the dentist chair, Christmas music playing in the background I had time to ponder this blog post. See, as the saliva was getting sucked out of my mouth, the hygienist spoke the words I dread hearing this time of year, “Have you gotten all your Christmas shopping done yet?” I sighed, probably a little too dramatically, I knew what was coming, I’ve been through this many times over the last 28 years that I’ve been an adult. I said “No, I don’t buy gifts.” The look of shock and horror rushes over her face before she can contain it, I could see it even with only her glaring eyes poking out over the mask. Sometimes I just say, “Oh yes, I don’t have much to buy.” But that never feels right to me because, well, it’s a lie. I don’t have anything to buy, I hate being pressured into buying gifts. My love language is not gifts! It’s quality time. Giving gifts is very hard for me, I don’t give them lightly, so if you get a gift from me then there was a lot of thought and anguish put into it. Need someone to talk to, teach you something or help you out with a problem, I’m your girl! But don’t ask me to go shopping with you, especially for Christmas gifts. I guess I should clarify, it’s not that I don’t like giving gifts. I love being generous whenever I can, but I prefer to do it in secret, for selfish reasons of course. Partially because if the person doesn’t like what I give them then I won’t know, but I also don’t like the attention. The awkwardness of being thanked for a gift is more than I can bear, and I’d rather just throw it at you and run away to never know what you thought.
I also struggle with the materialism of this time of year; I am one of ‘those’ people who likes to give and receive homemade or recycled, useful gifts. Even before I was a Christian, when I considered myself an agnostic riding the fine line of atheism, I still felt like the materialism of Christmas was just wrong. But maybe it was just an excuse to not buy gifts? Seriously though, I struggle with materialism and although the generosity of people this time or year warms my heart and make is grow three times bigger just like the grinch, I wonder why not all year?
So, while sitting in that dentist chair this morning I really started thinking about Christmas gift giving and have two questions I am currently pondering.
Question one: Why are most people only led to be generous at Christmastime? I did a little research; the majority of nonprofits raise as much as 50% of their funding for the year in December and 31% of Americans only donate money to charity in December. Shouldn’t those bell ringers be getting money stuffed inside their red can all year? Wouldn’t it be nice if we donated to the food pantry in the spring, summer and fall also? As a poor kid, I remember the churches would come around for Thanksgiving and Christmas and give us a big turkey and a box full of food. It was very generous of them, and I was thankful, but as a kid I was hungry all year round. I remember asking my mom why did the church only think we needed food during the holidays? Have you ever tried cooking a turkey while living in a motel room? How about opening a can of soup or cranberry sauce while homeless? Doesn’t work too well. In the cities there are soup kitchens and places to get a warm meal for free or cheap, but in many small towns there is nothing like that available. So, kids go hungry, and no one notices.
The nice lady from the church with the pretty Christmas sweater and loafers on got to hand a hungry single mom and her daughter a box of food. We did the obligatory, humiliating, thank you dance. The nice lady felt good and got to check the box off her good deeds done list for the year and tell everyone about the poor families she helped. We stared at a frozen turkey we could not cook and wondered what the heck to do with it.
Question two: Why do we Americans feel the need to get praise for our generosity? Has it always been this way or is it just a condition or our self-obsessed society? My social media feed is full of people who make a big show about their generous giving and feel the need to announce it to the world. I am sure I am guilty of it too. We give gifts to people and put From: on the tags so they are sure to know who was the gift giver. I am so, so blessed that I often walk into my barn and find a present sitting there from an anonymous, very generous person. I have been gifted everything from a taxidermy turkey that had been attacked by a dog and was literally the scariest thing I’ve ever seen to beautiful antique butter forms and everything in between. It is the best feeling of joy to be given a gift for no reason and when I have to hunt down the person because they were giving from their heart and needed no praise, well that makes me cry big, messy, embarrassing tears. Sometimes I am able to figure out who it was, but often I never know. Each item is treasured, even that scary taxidermy turkey and yes, I know who gave that one to me, Cilla!
I guess my questions will remain unanswered, we all have our own reason why we do the things we do. But for me I want to do better. I want to be a better giver, all year, not just at Christmas. I want to do my giving in secret, I don’t want to give you something to get praise or recognition, I want to do it because it makes my small heart grow three sizes that day. That’s the true meaning of life, not just Christmas.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Mathew 6:1