Thursday, December 1, 2011

Radical Gift Giving: Spending less and Giving More

Thoughtful gifts are just too hard. They take so much time. Especially if you ask for a list from someone, then you can just buy something on their list. It only takes money and a little time. It takes a lot more time to think about a person long enough, and to know them well enough to be able to create a gift for them that cannot be purchased. We don’t have the time. But what if we took the time? What if we really set aside time to think about the people we love and want to give gifts to? It is a risk, I know. But I think it is worth the risk. I am going to try. I will let you know how it turns out. This is what Advent Conspiracy is all about. Here is the link. Check it out for other ideas. Here is how it works.

Think about a person you want to give a gift and walk through their day or week. What is something you can do for them or make or provide for them that you cannot just buy. Listen to the people you love. Giving thoughtful gifts requires knowing what their days and weeks are made of. My mother has a lot of friends in the senior campus where she lives. There is little that she needs in the way of things. But she loves to encourage people and she is a letter and note writer. I am going to make her some cards and stationary and put something on the stationary that is very personal. I do not know what that is yet, but I am going to think about it. Then I will frame one of the cards and give it to her as a reminder of the gift.

I have a friend who has just about everything. She can afford to buy just about anything she wants or needs. What can I possibly give her? She just lost her father last April. I am going to use a picture I have of him and make a collage of some kind using the picture and words that I know describe the kind of father he was. I don’t know if this will turn out. But I am going to try.

The staff at my church has talked. We have agreed that this year we will not buy each other gifts that we really do not need. Instead we are going to pool the money we would have spent on each other and give it to some good cause that we all agree on and can be excited about. We will still celebrate a Christmas lunch together (but maybe drink only water and donate the saved amount toward our Advent Conspiracy offering!) but we will not exchange gifts this year. We will share the gift of giving to others. I think this will be wonderful team building.

It is not too late. Take the time. Give a gift of thoughtfulness. Give a gift of time. Give a gift that cannot be purchased. And then, if you have the heart, give the amount of money you saved as a gift to those really in need. Organizations like World Vision allow you to buy something in honor of someone. Here is the link to their Christmas catalog. The last few years I have given animals in honor of my mom. I gave some chickens in honor of her last year. These chickens (about $40) can provide income and food for a family long after Christmas gift giving is done. I gave art supplies to a child in honor of my daugther who is an artist. I gave vaccinations to a child in honor of my daughter-in-law who is a scientist. There are endless possibilities that are both generous to others, but personal to the recipient.

The Advent Conspiracy folks inspired our congregation to be more thoughtful about Christmas time spending. Since the beginning of November whenever I have been out and about and inclined to spend money on something I really do not need—a chocolate caramel macchiato ($3.95), or another sweater or shirt ($40)—I have committed to going home instead and putting the same amount I would have spent in an envelope for our church’s Christmas Eve offering. Fifty percent of that offering will go to our church benevolence fund to help people in real need, and the other fifty percent will go to provide fresh water for children in Africa. Check out, one of many non-profits providing clean water wells.

As of December first I have about $90 in my little envelope! I am already thinking about the need to carry this commitment throughout the year! What would happen if we all began to take this kind of thoughtful spending/giving seriously? What might God do in us through this kind of giving? I will let you know after the first of the year!

What ideas do you have or organizations do you know about to help make Christmas more about generosity and thoughtful giving and less about spending? Share a comment or give a link below!