The first Christmas catalog of the season arrived yesterday! I was excited to see it, but JC Penney disappointed me a bit because their catalog has only 175 pages. I remember when it was twice that big. But with online shopping and lots of competition and the price of paper, I guess I can’t blame them. It still has plenty of gadgets and electronics and sparkly jewelry and clever toys. I even found a couple of things I might order. And I had to send a message to my friend- another elephant collector- that there are two elephant rings, a bracelet, and a necklace in the catalog. I don’t wear half the elephant jewelry I own now, but its fun to see.
When I was a kid I used to spend hours looking at the Christmas catalogs. We usually got Sears and Penney’s and a few specialty ones. I’d make a list of everything I wanted to buy for Mom or other family members. Then a list of everything I wanted. Then a list of everything I’d buy if I had $1,000. I could play endless “what if” games.
It occurred to me last night that I don’t need lists anymore. I could buy anything in the catalog, including the $1,299 50” Samsung plasma TV, if that’s what I truly wanted. Not because I’m rich- far from it- but because our society operates on greed. I could put that television on a credit card or borrow the money from any of a dozen sources and be watching football tomorrow. I could spend the rest of my life paying for that television if I wanted to and no one would think I was crazy. Many people seem to feel that if they want it, they deserve to have it now.
I think I’ll pass. I like to have a little “wiggle room” in my budget and a little money in savings. I have the ability to prioritize my spending and, sorry Gary, I don’t see a 50” television anywhere in our future. Peace of mind gives me far more pleasure than having “things”.
Then there is the other side of Christmas- that “giving” part. The front of the JCP catalog says “joy of giving”, Christmas ’09. I like to give presents as much as anyone. I especially like to surprise people with gifts that aren’t for any designated or official holiday. But I don’t “buy love” or try to influence anyone’s behavior or attitude by buying them elaborate gifts. I don’t overindulge my grandchildren. I won’t go into debt for the remainder of the year in order to celebrate Christmas. If I’m going to spend too much, then let me spend it on those who are living in the same conditions I lived in as a child. Let me spend it on little children who are still making lists of things they would buy if only Mom and Dad had a job.
Last year we had a glorious Christmas because we all contributed to “angel” trees in our communities. I asked my children to buy something for a child instead of something for me. I just don’t need that much and shipping costs are outrageous. It was so much fun to hear my granddaughter talk about what she bought for “her child”. That was a gift! I bought a food basket for a family. I’m not telling you that to brag, but to give you another idea for your giving. There are so many ways all of us can help others. There are so many worthy programs that are suffering budget cuts this year. There are so many children who are suffering the consequences of our greed.
So, as the catalogs start piling up in your mailbox, please give some thought to the wishes and dreams of children in your community who won’t have much for Christmas. Let’s all do our part to make those wishes and dreams come true!