Sunday, December 13, 2009


Since I try to be an ethical person, I make of point of giving credit where credit is due. In this case, it's all Sonia's fault (more or less).

If you don't believe me, you can check here current piece on gift buying, or an earlier piece on a similar theme.

Christmas, I'm told, is the time of year when we spend money we don't have, buying presents we can't afford, to impress people we don't like. Or words to that effect. That's really bah, humbug!

I was reflecting on Sonia's second piece about people who "have it all." I wouldn't say I have it all. I would say I have WAY TOO MUCH (a problem which plagues our entire family, and much of most of our nations). And I am desperately trying to unclutter my life. I'm seriously focusing on simplicity. Besides, like many people, our economic resource base is shrinking in today's "interesting" economy.

This year, I'm going to "re-gift" some things I got last Christmas, that I haven't really opened.

Basically, if I need something, I buy it, when I need it. If I need an extra shirt, I'll get it from the Salvation Army or the Mennonites. There are a number of things which will work wonderfully if I sew a missing button on them. (I"ll wait until after my eye surgery to try that.)

I recall a tape to which both my wife and I listened a number of years ago. One of the notes was that, if you want to have a happy occasion, buy yourself the present you really want. There are only two things I want. One is a beautiful Celtic ring -- silver with a green stone -- modestly priced. The other is a brown leather vest. I like vests because they have so many pockets, and I tend to carry lots of different (small) things with me -- easier in a vest than in a brief case.

This year, we are consciously giving donations to groups and individuals which/who need some help. Community projects, friends going through a bad time, etc. We're giving some things to our kids and grandkids, too. (Or actually, some things to each other that we can do with the grandkids.)

I think we have far too many unfortunate, overblown expectations about presents, and mind-reading, and present-giving. As if, somehow, it's Christms so we have to give somebody something. If you look at Christmas, for example, God's gift was a person, not a gold watch for everyone in Bethlehem. If you know something that would really brighten someone's day, get it. That's great. But if you're just guessing -- skip the thought.

Kahlil Gibran, in this book The Prophet makes the observation that we give very little when give of our possessions. It is truly when we give ourselves that we really give. So
what would happen if we thought, instead of giving a present, we decided to be a present to someone? What form might that take?

Back to you, "gutsy" Sonia.


Gutsy Living said...

Great post Rob-bear and I have a few thoughts that relate to me.

1). Volunteering recently at a Mayan Village in Belize, was a way for me to be a present for others. Yenni, the 11-year-old I bonded with, was my gift. She truly touched my heart.

2). I know that by taking care of my home, and cooking meals and cleaning for my family, I am contributing to my family year round. This is often not considered a present, especially not by kids. They really do like receiving something they've been looking forward to for a while, but for older adults, things don't mean as much as memories of times spent together.

Gutsy Living said...

I forgot to thank you for your present to me. The post you wrote. Sonia.

Snowbrush said...

" I'm seriously focusing on simplicity."

Despite my honest efforts, I own a few more things at the end of every year.

Natalie said...

We often give vouchers for massages, outings,grooming etc. A treat or a suprise that we know the recipient can't afford.
Last year a food hamper to those who needed it.
Also, we have taken people on special outings ie Botanic gardens, Picnics etc, where we shouted the meal or afternoon tea etc.
Babysitting would always be appreciated here, as would meals being prepared etc. Little acts of love. :D

Rob-bear said...

Thank you, friends, for your comments.

® Gutsy Sonia: You're welcome for the thoughts you inspired. But you've clearly identified the kinds of things I'm try to say. Thanks for that help.

® Snowbrush: I suppose this has taken on some urgency for us because, for the first time, I've had to think seriously about moving from a house to a smaller place (condo or apartment). We cannot take all this stuff with us. I had to run some errands today (temperature -28°C, wind chill -41°) and I was hurting when I got home. Absolutely chilled to the bone. And I was well dressed for the outing.

® Natsy: I should have had you write this for me! Brilliant thoughts. Thank you.

cheshire wife said...

If husband wants something he goes out and buys it, unless it is clothes, which I usually end up buying for him, otherwise he would wear the same old clothes forever. Right now he seems to have enough clothes. So what do I buy for him???

Gutsy Living said...

Rob-bear, I linked to your blog today. Hope you enjoy "My Italian Lover" story. If I remember correctly, you pointed out liking this blog post, based on something else, a while back. I don't want to give it away, as I altered the story a little.

LadyFi said...

Coming here via Sonia... I wholeheartedly agree with you about the over-consumption at Christmas time.

Here in Sweden where I live we have Action Aid, where you can buy a goat or pig for someone who really needs it on behalf of a loved one at home who has everything they need.

French Fancy... said...

Couldn't agree more, Rob. Mr FF and I have decided not to do the present thing this year. There is simply nothing that we need or want - people just get so greedy and grabbing, buying the latest this or that - why bother?

Sniffles and Smiles said...

AMEN!!!!! Perfect post for this time of year, Rob!!! Love it!!! How are you? You've been in my prayers during the last several weeks...Hugs, Janine

Cait O'Connor said...

I really really love this post Rob because you express exactly what I feel. I tell everyone not to buy for me or M because we do not need anything (and if we ever do we buy it). Present giving should not be enforced nor should jollity it should be spontaneous and random. Like you I am trying to simplify my life as much as possible.

Tattieweasle said...

Oh it is so difficult when two families have different ideas about christmas. I try to steer people in the right direction preferring that if they must is it not better to club together to get something someone really wants that just get gifts? But in my husband's family gifts are the BIG thing and woe betide you if you don't do it. Especially if you combine the christmas present with the birthday one. I hate it so much and it really gets me down. I used to love it teasing my family months in advance to work out what they wanted then clubbing together with other family members to get the one gift they really wanted be it a spa day, a new handbag, whatever. Does that make my family materialistic? Sorry I've rattled on but your post hit home. I love giving things and seeing people really appreciate the gift whether it's home made sloe gin, chutney or something more expensive...

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Hello, Rob...just checking in to see how you are and to wish you a Merry Christmas!!! Hugs, Janine XO

Rob-bear said...

Sorry to be slow in responding to your thoughts. Now that the first phase of my eye surgery is over, I can actually see some things more clearly. (But not well enough that I get my spelling right al the time.}

® CW: since I don't know your husband, I have no suggestions. A book, a puzzle he can take apart and try to put back together again?

® Sonia: Ah yes, your little "menage a trois." Is your husband a bit jealous, perhaps?

As for the rest, I can't remember. After 30 years of journalism, I've long since given up worrying about "intellectual property," in most cases. Quote what you want; revise what you want. Sharing the ideas is the fun part.

® Lady Fi: Thanks for sharing. I like your idea!

® FF: Not getting each other presents? Sacrilege! (says Bear with tongue firmly planted in cheek.) I got Momma Bear a single rose for the little rose holder on the wall outside her bedroom. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever," or whatever.

® Cait: Yup! Glad you enjoyed the post. As I said to FF, I got something simple and beautiful for my wife, pretty much on a whim. Nothing much for our kids. Educational games for our grandkids, who are being home-schooled.

® Tattie: Yes; the clash of expectations is a challenge. Something home-mead; excellent. Plead change of circumstances" in our "peculiar" economy, if you think you can get away with giving something smaller. Sorry I cannot be more helpful.

® Jeanine: Thanks for both your notes! Second Christmas in a row that I've not been doing particularly well. The bad news is that my overall health continues to deteriorate. The good news is that I now know there are some things which can reverse the situation, at least in part. But these will require major changes in my life, far beyond what I had expected.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and that 2010 will be a year of health and joy.

CAMILLA said...

Hello Rob-bear.!

A really appropriate post for this time of the year. I have only bought what was essential for my Grandchildren this year. Next year I will be simplifying everything more.

I always like to remember the elderly folk, some are on their own and feeling terribly lonely. To pop in and see them and spend some time with them not only brightens their day but mine too.

Hope you had a lovely Christmas dear Bear and that the coming of the New Year you will be blessed with Peace, Health, and Happiness.