Last week, my son opened a door to a pantry full of food and proclaimed that there was nothing to eat. Granted, he is 12, and if there are no snack chips, carbonated beverages or cookies then the cupboard is deemed bare.
Still, it struck me that people who have all that they need and a lot of what they don’t simply do not always comprehend how good their life is.
Obviously, as a child of the 70s myself, who grew up in a more than comfortable middle-class existence, this is not the time for the talk about walking up a hill 3 miles both ways in the snow to school each day and living on dirt sandwiches for sustenance.
It is about making sure that we don’t have so much that we forget to appreciate it. This time of year in particular tends to bring about the realization in many households that their children truly don’t need — or want for — anything.
Used to be you had to be comfortably middle-aged if not downright elderly before you could become one of those “people who have everything” types who are impossible to shop for. Now, some folks reach that by age 2.
Realizing that this madness was afoot in our own home last year, we spent the weeks before Christmas purging out old toys. Much of it was as hard for me to part with as anything.
We boxed up the beloved action figures along with fleets of helicopters and boats. We packed up the Care Bears, their castle and their cunning little cars. We culled an entire stable full of My Pretty Ponies from our herd.
Lest you think I steal away the children’s beloved belongings while they sleep, perish the thought. The children were right there in the fray.
They spent the better part of three days gathering pieces and parts to complete play sets and wiping and scrubbing and buffing everything to a like-new shine.
Soon, what had started as a “must do because Mom said so” task morphed into a “fun do” because we all really embraced the spirit of giving (not to mention our newfound floor space). We then contacted a lovely man with the Lions Club who told us how our gently used toys (and some additional new ones) could make it into the homes — and eager hands — of other young children.
Just imaging that other children would enjoy their toys as much as they had made both children stand a little taller, a little prouder and certainly removed any angst they may have had about parting with their “stuff.”
Why, those little ponies practically trotted themselves out to the truck, so excited were they to go on to new, happy homes where they could and would be treasured anew.
As a much-appreciated bonus, I found that the moment the Great Toy Purge was over, both of my kids were immediately playing with the items that remained. It was as if they now saw all that same old stuff in a whole new light.
They still had plenty of what they truly wanted after sharing much else with others who did not. Since that time, a year has passed and I’m pleased to note that not one mention of any of the things we gave away has come up. Not a single plastic bear, action figure or little pink pony has even been missed.
Furthermore, I am remembering that as I shop this year. So many of the things that appear so cunning on the shelves soon turn into clutter at home. Simplification achieved through an act of giving has made everyone’s life a little easier, enjoyable and made room for appreciation of future things — and good feelings — to come.
In lieu of the economy, the war and so many other issues, many families are discussing the need — or want — of a simpler Christmas this year. One that gives our families the opportunity to appreciate and enjoy the blessings they have been given instead of tossing aside gift after gift to get through the pile.
Give from the heart, for certain, but please don’t ever give a gift just because you feel you “have” to. Give to charity. Give to others. Give from the heart but don’t “give stuff” just because the calendar says you must.
During December and the whole year give a little less “stuff” and a lot more “time.” I promise that for everything you “give away” you’ll get so much, much more in return.