Standing in line behind other exhausted, hot, thirsty people as I wait to pay for yet another holiday gift has given me time to think a bit about materialism… about things and how it feels to want them so very badly. It’s hard, even for adults who are supposed to know better, not to want something just as ardently and unrealistically as a child.
And then the things themselves are so pretty… so shiny and new and accessible. Paying for them has never been more painless — a swipe, a signature and you’re good to go. The better part of my nature knows that material things are not supposed to matter so much, but somehow they manage it just the same.
How many things you have is mark of success, after all. A way to show the world just how much you can afford. Or at least store.
At this time of year, it’s hard not to get caught up in the rush of collecting stuff… harder still to deny someone you love something they desperately want. Though I’ve yet to do this myself, I have every sympathy for parents who stand in line outside stores in the dawn cold to get a good price on the game system topping a child’s list. There is nothing to match the feeling of getting just what your child wants most… knowing how happy they will be.
At least until the new version comes out.
There are some interesting facts from the American Psychological Association on the discontent that has come along with all the stuff we have. Since 1957, people own twice as many cars, eat out two times as often as well ass having ready access to things that weren’t invented yet. Things like big screen TVs, iPods and tablets, microwave ovens . We all have more stuff, but that doesn’t mean we are any happier than we were then, in fact, the risk of depression is greater now than ever.
Isn’t the stuff supposed to make us happy? change our lives? fix our relationships?
Only it doesn’t. Too late you realize that you can have every thing in the world… all the shiny, glittery stuff and actually have nothing at all. Things don’t keep you company. They don’t hold you hand when you’re scared. They offer no protection from sickness or danger or loss. In fact, too many things make you a target of envy and greed.
What’s more, the time and effort spent working to get, or chasing down, all that stuff keeps us from doing things that really do have a chance to make us happy. Like spending quality time with family and good friends. Pursuing a hobby with passion. Volunteering time to a worthy cause. Finding joy in the moment… the time and place you are in right now.
I recently came across a great suggestion on (holiday and birthday) gift giving from a mother of young boys. Entitled The Gift of Not Giving A Thing the post suggested that rather than gifting the kids with more toys or clothing (neither of which they really need), give the gift of your time and company.
Plan a visit or outing together instead. Take them to a movie, a park or playground… share an afternoon of experiences and start building a bond with the child. That lasts a whole lot longer than any thing you can wrap up and give.
Now that’s a great idea. You guys have any other ways to “not give a thing” this holiday season?