Tuesday, November 27, 2018

3 Questions to Make Holiday Gifting More Meaningful

I thought this year I might do something different than my usual Anti-Poverty Mom Gift Picks to more broadly address how we can break the cycle of scrolling around or flipping through catalogs looking for the perfect "thing" to bring happiness to our friends and family members. I offer three questions can help up-end the way we think about holiday giving and make a stand against the rampant consumerist attitude that overcomes even the best of us around December. Can we make decisions that don't break the bank for the giver and also help other people NOT be in poverty? Consider these questions that may lead giving in ways you can hardly go wrong. 

Question #1: What does my friend/loved one value and how can I help support those values with a donation to a great charity?
I admit I used to go about this question a little backwards by asking myself, "What are my favorite charities that can I support by giving donations as gifts to my friends and loved ones?" There's nothing hugely wrong with that as it does help spread awareness about worthy causes, but I think it can leave people feeling like I was just foisting my own desires onto them. It's true that kind of gift does not show the recipient how much you've been thinking about them as an individual person. By turning it around, we can start by thinking about what shared values the giver and the recipient have in common to make that bond even stronger. Do you have a friend who is heartbroken over families being mistreated and separated at the U.S./Mexico border? Pick one of 7 activist groups at this link to help ensure the US follows it's own laws for humane treatment. A life event...good or bad...could also help guide the donation. Do you know someone who just had a baby? A donation to Clean Birth to help other moms in Laos have safe births can express your shared gratefulness that her baby is healthy. Does someone on your gift list live in California? 100% of donations to the Las Virgenes Family Fire Fund go directly to fire victims, many of whom are now homeless.

April Emerick's crocheted pieces can be found in Manhattan Antique Mall
at 10341 St Charles Rock Road in St Louis
Question #2: How can I support an artist putting beautiful things into the world by buying art and getting it in the hands of someone who truly appreciates it?
Sure, by the word "art" we could be talking about a painting or sculpture from an art gallery. But we could also be talking about useful pottery, crocheted scarves, quilted blankets, or crafted jewelry. I know individuals in my life who make beautiful specimens of these items out of the sheer joy and passion for it. None of the amateur or professional artists I know work for corporations providing their health care and travel expenses. I appreciate that they dedicate their time and talents to the process of creating beauty...sometimes at the expense of a comfortable, stable life. Snarky people often look at folks in poverty and say, "Why don't you get a job or make something to make money?" Well, these folks are making some amazing things and I would like to enable them to keep making money with dignity using their unique skills instead of packing it all in to work at desks or Walmarts or other places that wouldn't fuel the creative sparks in their souls. Seasonal crafting and studio shows are a great place to find these local artists!

Photo by Penzey's Spices
Question #3: How can I support my community to be vibrant and thriving by buying meaningful local gifts?
Now, in order to be very socially responsible, you would ideally know something about the owners in the store. Sometimes you know it by the very nature of a fair trade store like Plowsharing Crafts in St. Louis. Some owners make it really easy, like Penzey's spice store in Chesterfield, by being involved in local affairs and speaking out about issues they care about. Others, maybe not so much. But either way, when you buy locally, you're helping small, independent business owners keep their doors open and helping your town have a unique character. Life wouldn't be very fun if every town only had the same national chain stores that you can find in any mall!

Did these questions inspire any ideas for you? Please share them in the comments!