Friday, December 01, 2006

Christmas Wishes Revisited

Perhaps this whole asking people not to buy anything for me thing is more complicated than I thought. It's extremely counter-cultural, and maybe even selfish. I know that people want to buy me things as a sign of our relationship; there's a joy in knowing someone well enough to find a gift that would be perfect for them, and the joy in giving that gift is really a celebration of the relationship. By asking that people donate to a charity instead, I'm depriving them of the opportunity to give to me, it seems.

On the other hand, if gift-giving is supposed to be about giving the other person whatever would bring them the most joy, then undoubtedly I should feel justified in asking for people to donate to a charity, because it is genuinely what makes me the happiest. Here are my reasons why:

  • I don't need or want any more stuff except for a few little things that I'll tell my family about. I have more stuff than can fit in my dorm room now, and still another roomful of stuff back home. I appreciate that people go through the time to find things just for me, but I don't want or need any more things.
  • I go to lectures a lot. A significant portion of my time at ND so far has been spent learning about what's wrong with the world. I even took the most depressing class ever, Introduction to Social Problems. I do what I can grassroots activism-wise, but I know that money is what makes the world go round. I'm a collge student. I don't have money, or an income. This seems like my chance to give to those who really, really need it. Really. Not in a it would be nice way, but in a it will feed a child way.
  • The more I learn, the more I want to go help fix things, and the more impatient I get. I know I need to be here. So people giving money would relieve some of that tension for me and would make me feel better about my extreme affluence relative to the poverty of the world. I have been given so much; it would make me happiest if those who haven't had the privelages I've had were given something too.

If people absolutely have to get me something, then I want something that involves the gift of time, not money. I want long letters. Tell me anything- how you're doing, how your family is doing, what you want to do this year, a favorite Christmas story, a favorite recipe- anything. I never get letters any more, and I would love to get beautiful letters from those I care about.

This was written primarily in response to one person's objections to my campaign (which he has since decided were wrong). I don't know if this post is necessary, and if not, sorry for cluttering my blog with it.


  1. Anonymous3:01 PM

    I'm so sorry. I never meant to shoot down your plan to any degree. I really thought that it was an amazing idea, especially if it is done in the right mindset. But I was also stricken with the realization that what you want is right, and I don't think I could ever whole-heartedly want that. I don't know if that's because we're differently called or if my problem is similar to that of the rich young man in the gospels. Perhaps I am too attached to the material aspects of giving and receiving to abandon my selfish desire in favor of another's well-being. I did not mean to criticize; it's just that if you are right (which you are), I am completely wrong about my life. I used to believe that I simply have a different call in my life, and it is not necessary to give up very much of the physical. Thus, I never saw too much of a problem with the traditional idea of Christmas, as long as it was kept within some reasonable limit. When discussing with you, I was afraid and was seeking ways that my view might not be completely wrong. How can it be completely wrong, though, if that tradition does bring joy, actual joy, in some people's hearts? When somebody does find that gift that they believe is perfect for somebody else, no matter how well-off that other person already is, and no matter how expensive (within some degree of reason) the gift is, and when both the giver and the recipient beam with joy whenever the gift is given and whenever it is used/worn/whatever, how is that evil? I may sound like I am trying to defend my selfishness, but I mean it. The season brings joy to people in the giving and in the receiving. People do truly need more than we do, but does that make it wrong for us to receive something that we don't necessarily need? Just to give you some idea of what I was thinking about.

  2. I see that, but the point I was trying to make, for me at least, is that they aren't separate processes. Donating is a gift to me because it's what I want and it will make me happy, just as if you had spent money on a physical gift. I would be lying if I said that this request comes from selfless motives. I want this as my present- I don't necessarily need it, I will survive if no one does this for me, but it's what I'm asking for.

  3. hey laura
    received your comment on my blog. thanks for the feedback. just checked out your blog. loved it. it's so nice to hear about a student who's in it for the learning. and savoring diversity, to boot. guitar lessons, roman cathalocism AND football. very well rounded. keep in touch!

  4. You know, I am totally on board with this. I feel guilt about my relative affluence and everything, but darn it, I still want that expensive Kitchenaid mixer (red) and a plethora of other junk. All while trying to figure out how to simplify my life. I look at Adbusters sometimes to keep myself in check. I think you're spot on.

  5. Well, it's easy when I don't have room for or need for more stuff. There's a big difference between another CD and a mixer, on the practicality and usefulness scale. Thanks for the compliment, though :-)