By Donna Mazzitelli
It’s the time of year when shopping malls are crowded. Everyone seems to be out searching for holiday gifts, whether at six in the morning or midnight. Yet the more we acknowledge the environmental impacts of consumerism and the unfortunate disposable shopping culture that engulfs us, the less comfortable we may feel about the act of buying presents.
Although we may want to get off the consumerism treadmill, most of us feel the pull to buy gifts for family members, friends, and neighbors. Admittedly, the act of giving is important and being generous is a wonderful trait. But are there ways we can give and be generous without being consumers of wasteful, useless, impractical, and even unwanted or unnecessary items?
There are a multitude of ways to give the gift of experiences and non-material presents. From shoveling snow to making homemade candy or cookies, a little of our time can go a long way to show our appreciation and care for someone special in our life. With a little planning, some creativity and thought about the person for whom you are giving the gift, plus the awareness of all you have to offer, it can become a rich and rewarding experience for everyone involved. You’ll also realize just how many opportunities there are.
Here are seven ideas to consider this holiday season:
- Most of us have household pets. When we want to get away, it can be difficult to find the right living arrangement for them. Giving someone the gift of pet sitting for their next vacation or weekend away can be an invaluable gesture of generosity.
- Families with young children typically enjoy outings. The entrance fees to places like the zoo can be expensive for a young family. The gift of an annual family pass to a local facility can provide a family with hours of enjoyment.
- Typically, parents of young children also find it difficult to go out alone or as a couple. The gift of your time to babysit their children is invaluable.
- Elderly individuals can become housebound with the passage of time. If you know an elderly person who doesn’t get out often, consider how much the gift of an outing might be appreciated, whether one time or once a month over the upcoming year. A trip to the grocery store, to a restaurant, or to see a movie provides companionship, time outside the home, and the opportunity to be with other people in new surroundings.
- When you give a physical gift, consider homemade items. A meal or dessert, jarred or canned food, or a throw you’ve made by hand can provide meaning that goes far beyond the gift itself. Additionally, a paid membership to the gym or your local yoga studio, or tickets to a concert series or someone’s favorite sports team will give the recipient a year of pleasure and entertainment.
- Within your own family, rather than a gift exchange, think about a shared experience. Maybe it’s a cruise or a house rental on the beach or maybe it’s a night out to see The Nutcracker. Maybe it’s volunteering as a family at a local soup kitchen or shelter. The gift of time spent together in meaningful ways is priceless.
- When giving a gift to be opened, consider if you have items that you can re-gift. It may sound “tacky,” but if you have something that you’ve never used or worn, it may be the exact item someone else has been looking for.
The more meaningful and personal the gift, the greater the likelihood it will be appreciated by the recipient. The key lies in giving more non-physical gifts that have less environmental impact while providing pleasure and maybe even longer-lasting enjoyment because of the experiences and memories they offer.
Donna Mazzitelli, “The Word Heartiste,” is the owner and founder of Writing With Donna, where she provides writing and editing services, and Merry Dissonance Press, a book producer/indie publisher of works of transformation, inspiration, exploration, and illumination. Donna can be found at www.writingwithdonna.com, www.merrydissonancepress.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.