It is not a good idea, getting the Objector started on Christmas. Call me Scrooge if you want to, but Christmas is silly on the surface, and downright tragic once you begin to dig deep. Depending on who you go to for information, Christmakkuhwanza will soak up between three and four BILLION dollars this year, most of which will be spent on gifts that few people want, and even fewer of us need. The average American will spend around $900 on the holidays, $900 many cannot really afford. And yet this country and the world are filled with people in desperate need: of food, shelter, medical care, clean water, or housing. Get ready to break the cycle of Christmas insanity — follow the Objector down the path of righteousness, and start to feel good about the holidays again.
Most of the folks I know are desperately trying to pare down their belongings — late-stage capitalism has left most of us drowning in our own (short-lived) desires. So why throw another plastic salad spinner on top of the pile?
Since this is apparently Jesus Christ’s birthday, perhaps the “do unto others” approach is the best place to start. Your aunt has two cars and a timeshare in Vero Beach — she doesn’t need $45 worth of scented candles. Give to a charity on her behalf, and tell her all about it. Maybe she has 12 Siamese cats — go ahead and donate money in her name to the North Shore Animal League (nsal.org), or sponsor a homeless kitty at BARC shelter right here in New York City (barcshelter.org).
If your giftees are the people-loving kind, check out the Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti (hashaiti.org), which serves some 285,000 poor Haitians. For the price of a crappy necktie or a video game they can provide treatment for a sick child, or an entire surgery for an adult (and they do it without religious affiliation). Through their community development programs, $45 buys a water filter for a family, providing clean, safe drinking water; $250 can give a family an entire latrine, and the attendant health benefits. You could actually save a life with your Christmas spending, while protecting the environment (from all that plastic crap no one wants) and the sanity of your nearest and dearest (is there anything sadder than a gift you don’t want, and don’t need?)
And if you don’t have the cash, give your time, and energy. Cook for Food Not Bombs (foodnotbombs.net), or your local homeless shelter. Bake a couple of pies and drop them off at a soup kitchen, or put in a couple of hours at an afterschool reading program. Remember, your time is like money, and spending it wisely is the most important thing to do: why drive yourself mad working overtime to give money to the Gap’s stockholders when you could be walking homeless dogs or mentoring a fatherless kid as a Big Brother.
And if you just gotta give, give something green, or green-inducing. What about a reusable tote bag for shopping, or a slick stainless-steel flask for your friend with the water bottle fixation? Both are available in spades at Reusablebags.com, a great online source for green goods. Another great approach is to give a service rather than a thing — everyone loves a good massage, or a facial; you can get your disorganized Dad a personal organizer for an afternoon, or your dog-owning, overworked sister the services of a professional dogwalker. Membership in a CSA! House cleaning! Baby sitting! Dinner at an excellent restaurant! Cooking classes! All are great gifts that support your local community and will never end up in a landfill. Your conscience, your gift recipients, the planet, and the Conscientious Objector will all thank you. Dog bless us, everyone!