Giving More With Less This Christmas
Green living, being more of a conscious change in mindset than occasional choices, is a lifetime commitment. As it is a year-long way of living, a green lifestyle doesn’t stop at Christmas in spite of consumerism temptations and messages that tell people to buy, buy, and buy new items for their loved ones this season. Much like telltale Christmas lights popping up around the neighborhood, various Christmas sales with discounts, freebies, and promos pop up to give people more reasons to buy more things – making even the most hardcore green living convert have a hard time resisting a second look.
But the endless stream of excessive consumerism messages can be checked with a simple principle: less could actually be given for more. We have a choice to either buy more and give less, or buy less and give more this Christmas season. I saw this principle at work in some unusual gift-giving projects over the years.
One of the best memories I have of Christmas is standing outside the door of a ramshackle house, singing carols with friends and fellow volunteers while the man of the house inside searches for a coin. I was one of the high school volunteers of the local red Cross chapter in our city, and the community project that Christmas was focused on benefiting marginalized and below-the-poverty-line people in certain areas of the city. What the volunteers did for the project was to donate some of their used clothes and useful household items. These were gathered together with several bags of groceries that the local chapter office provided and divided equally among the pre-selected gift recipients.
Our beneficiaries knew nothing of our project and showed different reactions when our group came to their ‘houses’ singing carols. I suppose nobody ever bothered to try their luck with these mostly derelict shacks located on the outskirts of society. Not even the most hardened group of carol-singing kids will expect more than a few coins from them. So our would-be recipients exhibited various degrees of shock, apology, and embarrassment when they saw a group of carolers outside their homes. Yet none of them turned us away. The man I mentioned earlier touched all of our hearts deeply as he desperately sought any amount of money to give us for our carols. He came out holding a single coin, not enough even for a person’s fare home, and was bewildered when no one would accept it. The surprise and joy on his face when he understood that we had come to give and not to ask something from him is, as with the other recipients’, something I always cherish.
I was also inspired and impressed by the gift-giving project of my single professionals group in church this year. Like in my high school volunteer group, we were not asked to give cash or buy new things as gifts. What the group did was basically a garage-sale-for-a-cause, asking church members to drop in their used items (clothes, CDs, shoes, books, even electronics and gadgets) in a donation box over the course of several weeks. We sold these items during weekends at a local marketplace known for bargain sales. Profits from these sales were saved up and given to a local organization that takes care of sick and injured kids.
Not anymore a penny-saving high school student, I appreciated the fact that being single professionals we could have just dug in our pockets and given cash. it would’ve been a lot easier that going through all the fuss of the garage sale. But giving our time in organizing, pricing, and selling the items had actually given us more experience, goodwill, and camaraderie than if we had done things the easy way. One certainly cannot put a price on the valiant effort of showing up sleepy-eyed on Sunday mornings with friends to sell secondhand clothes and stuff at bargain prices. Nor can the experience of seeing the fruit of our efforts put a smile on the faces of children in need of acceptance and companionship as much as we all do, be priced.
In both experiences I cannot help but give kudos to the leaders who had the initiative and perspective to show us how to give more with less. I hope I may be able to apply the same principle in smaller, though no less significant areas of my life not just at Christmas but all year round.
Green living, after all, is just simple living. And simple living, uncluttered with many and often useless distractions, has space for all the treasures life has to give.
What are the ways you could give more with less this Christmas? Share your stories and insights with us at The Environmental Blog Forum.
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