The most excruciating thing for me is shopping. In December. I've one stop left to make and I'm dreading it. I only have to go into one store, but the thought of going anywhere near a shopping centre is not a pleasant thought.
I had to finish up 'main' gifts and buy food yesterday. We arrived at 9.10am, when it was lovely and quiet. Normal, even. By the time we left two hours later the place was a zoo. And not a pleasant experience like wandering about the beautiful Melbourne Zoo, or Healesville Sanctuary. I came home exhausted. The kind of exhaustion I felt the week after the Year 6 graduation, when I'd been at work full time for a few weeks without a day off. Trouble is, I was only at the shops for two hours. Those two hours rendered me useless for the rest of the day! By the time I got into the last supermarket I was nearly in tears....and not because Mr Busy was being his usual shopping-difficult self. He was being completely lovely.
After yesterday's experience I'm appreciating some things and planning on making some changes . The staff at Our School are a very generous group of people. On the last two days of school, our pigeon holes need to be cleared constantly, for the gifts and cards that arrive there. Chocolate is often the gift of choice. But this year I received two little gifts that really spoke to me on many levels. One was a card from TEAR that indicated the gift of school supplies had been purchased in my name. I am still so excited about that gift that I keep going back to it to read the card! The second was a little Christmas tree decoration, in the shape of a Christmas tree. This decoration was so much more special, though. It is made in Kenya under a project that tries to help people find alternative ways to earn income whilst preserving the native wildlife. My beaded Christmas tree is absolutely exquisite. As I hold it I wonder about the person (presumably a woman) who made it and I am in awe of the workmanship that went into this little piece.
Neither of these gifts are terribly expensive and yet they speak to my heart more than any other. These are gifts that have built a community up, rather than tearing people apart as they selfishly push and shove their way around a shopping centre that is designed to relieve us of our money so that others can become richer.
So what am I going to change in my approach to gift purchasing next year? Two things.
- I am going to seek out gifts that build up and provide hope to the communities from which they come.
- Like one of my colleagues, I will aim to be done by Grand Final Day. This lady does all her shopping on Grand Final Day, when the shopping centres are empty. Oh yes...that's my kind of shopping!
I realise that this is not a perfect world, and not every recipient will be receptive to the idea. But where I can, that's where I'm aiming.
If you're after some ideas of organisations that sell gifts that make a difference, here's what I've found on my very quick little google search:
Baptist World Aid
Global Exchange Store
Please note, that I have not investigated each of these organisations and do not necessarily endorse their philosophies. This list is merely an example of what is available.