This week marked the first day of winter for me. Yes, I know, it's barely November-- but on Tuesday, the air was crisp and cold, the sun set at approximately 2pm, our house developed a frigid draft, and I actually had a wear a jacket outside during the day (something this Southern Californian can never get used to).
Not that I'm complaining-- although there will be a time for that. After all, there's nothing more delicious than snuggling under flannel sheets & a down blanket when it's frosty outside... or stocking up your kitchen with butternut squash, risotto, and hot chocolate. I'm still in that honeymoon phase where sweaters & scarves are fun & exciting and rainy weekends mean reading on the couch, while listening to our Fireplace DVD (don't make fun-- something about having that crackling fire on the TV screen actually does heat up our apartment. I swear).
But, of course, the one thing that really makes the coming of Winter exciting is Christmas. Oh, just writing that sends a little thrill up my spine, and I feel the adrenaline pumping merely thinking about setting up our little Christmas tree, listening to the Rat Pack sing Christmas carols, walking by Macy's display window in Union Square (with all the little puppies & kittens from the SPCA), and unwrapping the carved wooden nativity scene we bought in Uganda. Be still my heart. Decency and proper etiquette keep me from doing any of these things before Thanksgiving has had its turn-- but a girl can still dream.
One thing I am working hard not to dream about, though, is my Christmas wish list. Chris & I live on a pretty tight budget, and really only get new things twice a year, at Christmas and on our birthdays. Because of our parents' generosity (some would call it gluttonous spoiling), we do pretty well for ourselves, and I rarely feel want or need.
In fact, most years, as Christmas approaches, I start off by saying "I really don't know what to ask for. I have everything I need." I rack my brain and finally realize that a new sweatshirt would be nice. Oh, and I could use a pair of tights for when it gets cold... and a skirt to go with them, when I wear my tall boots. On second thought, another pair of jeans that fit under my boots would be great, too. And its always nice to take a little trip to the spa for a facial. Oh yeah, I was thinking I wanted new PJ's...
You can see where this is going. Ever since we have gotten married and my gift receiving has increased by 1/3rd, I look at my closet, post-present opening, and feel a little nauseated. Every year, I tell myself I will return some of it-- that I don't need that much stuff, and that it just breeds greed & materialism in me. To my recollection, though, I never have... and that makes my heart heavy.
Last night, one of our students showed us this great video called Advent Conspiracy. You should definitely watch it. In fact, watch it right now, before you continue reading....
I just watched it again, and it really is so inspiring.
So, in light of the $450 billion dollars spent on Christmas every year, and the $10 billion it would take to bring clean drinking water to the entire world, I have decided that I want to change the way I do Christmas. I need to think & pray about it a little more, but I know I want at least half of the opulent amounts of money spent on me over Christmas to go to the poor.
Sadly, it hurts a little bit just saying that, and I confess a part of me wonders if I will be able to stick with it. I think about all those things that my mind so easily jumped to-- the things that I want, but don't need. I think about the little thrill I get wearing new clothes, feeling stylish, and just how fun it is to have something *new*. I love it. I relish it. But I hate it at the same time. What if I could really free myself from that, and, instead, find a deeper joy in giving?
Part of me feels ashamed at how difficult it is to make that commitment. But there it is, in black & white, posted for all the world (or the 3 people that actually read this blog) to see. I don't write all of this to sound magnanimous or holy, but to share my internal struggle & to challenge others to do the same.
What do you really need?
What can you do without?
What can you give away?
These are questions I have been asking myself for a while now, and I confess, I haven't been very quick to act. Let that change now, little by little.