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Every year I see this Christmas shopping craze with people spending hundreds and thousands of [insert currency] each to come in possession of more items, for gifts or personal benefit. And that's fine, I do that as well, but every time I do that I at least try to figure out whether it's something I need/the other recipent needs or wants.

And even that's not enough. Before my trip to Poland to see family and friends, I'd been walking home from the gym one night and it struck me that any one of us can do so much more, and well beyond the scope of Christmas as well.

So I thought it'd be a decent thing to donate to a food bank or similar charity. Despite being blessed with life in the wealthier part of the world, there is such a huge number of people who can't afford to feed themselves. A disgusting statistic, seeing how much food is wasted every year per capita. I don't think I can just not care about this anymore, especially since I come from an area where some people I knew had that same problem in the past.

I'm going to try and make that first donation before Christmas and after I've come back to Liverpool I'll be looking into making this a regular, monthly thing. This isn't going to be anything huge but if more people do the same thing we can actually make a difference in someone's life.

There's no kids on this planet that can make an effort to learn at school without at least one hot meal a day. And it's a real shame that this is even a problem in Britain, or Poland for that matter.


I've done that this year to the St Catherines food bank close to where you used to live (there's links with where I work). Other donations throughout the year, but I'm going to see this becomes more regular again. It did tail off for a few months.

I'm having similar (maybe worse!) misgivings about Christmas. Strangely, I've noticed as my personal wealth slowly increases year on year, I'm becoming more and more disillusioned with Christmas. I feel guilty.

Christmas has turned into an extravagant festival of excess, of gluttony and selfishness and sheer greedy indulgence. Sure, we might spend lots and sometimes overstretch ourselves spending what we don't have on 'stuff' for other people close to us. We might do that because we genuinely want to make someone happy, or because we feel compelled to. We're told by inescapable media that Christmas is a time of "family", a time to "come together" and "celebrate" (and all the while spend), but all I see is isolation everywhere.

Not everyone has much of a family, or any family. Christmas can be a time of monstrous loneliness, of ever distant memories, of deprivation, of isolation, surrounded by millions of people celebrating nothing much more than their own good fortune, oblivious to anything and everyone not part of that.

It's all excessive self-absorption. All of it, and it happens en-masse every year. It only serves to isolate us from everyone else as we rush around to figure out what to buy for whom and think about our own "special day". It's a fantasy that isolates us all, whether by locking us into our own family or friends, or by reaffirming that we have no family or friends whilst surrounded by images of gluttony and greed and idealised realities, like some sort of outsiders not fit for inclusion.

I want to do something different, but I don't know how to make it happen. I want to share my fat, greedy, once-a-year gut-busting Christmas dinner with somebody who can't provide it themselves, or somebody who doesn't have anyone else to share it with. I don't really mind who this person or people will be, provided that they will enjoy a few hours they otherwise wouldn't have (and, importantly, aren't lazy-types placing no value on anything just taking advantage of a free meal - that's the sticky point, bad apples are everywhere).

It's not completely altruistic. Doing so would give my Christmas some meaning, and give me a reason to enjoy this over-hyped stressful season again, which at the moment is devoid of nearly all the "magic" it had when I was much younger. The only problem is, I don't have a clue how to make something like this possible without being totally taken advantage of. I'm particularly mindful of an anecdotal story I heard on local radio a year or two ago (Sheffield station maybe). I wasn't paying attention to most of it at first, but the gist was something like this happened, and some young kid who was expecting nothing got given some sort of toy, something in a foldaway case as I recall. Whatever it was, his mum said he was so happy with it, he played with it every day and took it to bed with him for a couple of weeks after that. I cried a bit in the car.

I want to make someone happy like that, or at the very least, share a good hot seasonal meal. I just have no idea how to go about that.
Same here, thinking about it on a deeper level I also feel some sort of guilt. What I've achieved is not just my own work but also other people's help and some generous dose of luck - there's lots of people who are short on those last two, and to go beyond looking solely after your own personal needs and showing concern for others is something extremely commendable.

I often find that people forget that you don't need that one "special day" in a year to show people you love them. Any other day is good for that, and doesn't require wrecking your credit score in order to make those excessive purchases. I don't like it how Christmas has turned into an "all you can buy" fest, starting as early as October, where this is taken to the extreme. Sure, it's good for business but it shouldn't be the main point.

I want to think I can do something more than that but to just come to that sort of realization takes some time, let alone to act upon it. But then again it's hard to ignore when we have people in full-time jobs lining up to the local food bank. That's just not normal.

So maybe when I come visit next time we could go buy a few things and drop them off at St. Cathrines? No doubt that would make a number of people very happy indeed regardless of the season we're in.

Edited at 2015-12-24 08:07 am (UTC)
It's an entirely fair point. Not that receiving or giving gifts is anything bad, but it's a little odd to see just how much people seem to spend for Christmas. That said, I did buy myself a few goodies of a practical and cute nature. =:) For giving to others, though - that's more something I'm inclined to just go for at any point in the year, rather than any particular occasion. Mum and I won't be exchanging gifts, beyond just enjoying plenty of good food and drink together. ^_^

There is, of course, no shortage of good charities around (not including the Red Cross, given their abysmal accounting of what on earth happened to the huge amount donated to Haiti, with almost nothing to show for it), like Doctors without Borders, although Merlin seems to do better on the aspect of spending less on promotion, more on actual aid. I've had a small standing order with AICR (now WCR, apparently) running for a few years, given a few aunts and one cousin succumbed to the ravages of breast cancer.

(I do wish, though, that charities - and indeed, any organisation or company - would avoid automatically adding you to their list, forever to receive email and post as a result of even a one-time donation. I'd sooner they spent that money on their actual mission)

It does become a bit overwhelming, really, thinking of just how many charities are so deserving, and how many people are suffering in so many ways, even in developed nations, where some sections rationalise along the lines of "bad things only happen to bad people", willingly trying to erode the welfare net that's meant to prevent people from falling into such desperate situations to begin with. There's one school in San Francisco, f'rex, where some 20% of the students are homeless. (And my local town council voted against offering shelter to 200 refugees. Surprisingly enough, these vessels of compassion are Conservative)

Agh, enough of that. We can certainly play a part in making the world a slightly better place, and that's what matters.
Oh yes, I enjoy giving away gifts to family and friends, often much more than I enjoy receiving them. There's nothing wrong with that but looking at it deeper I can at least personally see that the wealth of things around me is such that there's no excuse for not sharing some of it with others, in one form or another.

There's so many just causes and charities out there, fighting to abolish human trafficking, against discrimination in many forms, and many more monstrosities, but even something as simple as donating to your local food bank can make a massive difference to someone perhaps just a few streets away.

And looking at the thousands of people fleeing war-torn Syria, the way I try to look at it is not through politics, whether there's terrorists among them and whatnot, but through the simple fact that they need basic aid like any other human being would.

I've always felt that whatever I've gained in life was not just my work but largely other people's help and luck. Takes a long time to realize that fully but it's a good thing to think about and to act upon. I hope I could actually make someone's life at least more tolerable.