By LeDayne McLeese Polaski
“It’s not fair!”
If you are a parent, you likely hear this several times a day — everything from dessert sizes to bedtimes are occasions for children to spot real or imagined unfairness.
The truth is, the world isn’t fair — and too often in ways that matter far more than the size of our slice of cake or the fact that “everybody else” gets to stay up until 10. It isn’t fair, for instance, that some children work in sweatshops while other children (like mine) go to school. It isn’t fair that millions of people go to bed hungry every night while I try to figure out how to fit all the leftovers into the fridge. It isn’t fair that people work hard for wages that don’t even cover the basics of food and shelter. We all know the world isn’t fair, but can we do anything about it?
Yes! No one of us can transform the world, but we can make more informed choices that help make our day-to-day lives conform to our beliefs and values. Let’s start with Christmas.
It is a bit odd, isn’t it? We celebrate the birth of a peasant child born in a borrowed barn by trying to find the perfect gift for “the person who has everything.” We bombard our already over-stuffed kids with even more stuff. To make it all worse, we often spend money we don’t have to do so.
Here are some ways to make the holidays fairer (and less expensive.)
Alternative gifts. For the person who truly has “everything,” why buy more? There are great ways to give gifts that benefit others. How about a gift membership in a group that speaks to the recipient’s values? Or maybe a gift certificate that will allow her to make a microloan through Kiva? Check out 10 Great Things to Give for the Holidays for lots of ideas, including many with Baptist ties.
With a little thought, you can give alternative gifts that reflect the priorities of everyone on your list. My mother-in-law, a lifelong school teacher, cried the year that I gave her warm clothes for needy kids.
Consignment shopping. Buying used goods is not only cheaper, it’s fairer. The proceeds do not go into the pockets of huge companies — and they often benefit great causes. You can find your closest Goodwill location throughout the United States and Canada by entering your zip or postal code into their web site. There are almost certainly numerous other options in your area as well. I have found great gifts in good condition at all of these places.
Fair trade gifts. Fairly traded goods guarantee living wages and decent working conditions for the people who make them. Ten Thousand Villages, as one example, offers beautiful fair trade home décor, gifts, jewelry, seasonal decorations and more. Find a store or shop online. Equal Exchange offers fairly traded organic foods and handmade crafts from farmer and artisan co-ops around the globe.
The gift of time. One of my all-time favorite gifts was a torn sheet of notebook paper on which my daughter Kate had written “gift certificate for hugs and kisses.” It doesn’t have an expiration date so I keep it handy and redeem it often, even now that she’s 14! In our all-too-hurried society, a promise to meet a friend monthly for coffee would be a lovely gesture. Or perhaps you have a skill that you can share such as a gift of sewing or cooking — or, even better, spending time teaching someone to sew or cook.
All of the above. If you like the idea of having “something under the tree,” you can do a combination of the ideas above. With a bit of imagination, you can give themed gift combos. My gift to my father one year was a bottle of red wine we bought at Yellowstone National Park along with a donation in his honor to the U.S. National Parks. One year, I gave my husband, Tom, a donation to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and the promise of a shared hike.
There are lots of ways to celebrate Christmas that add joy and fairness to our lives and those of others. I look forward to hearing what you try! If you use any of the ideas here, drop me a line at [email protected] with the subject line “Fair Christmas.”