Monday, December 12, 2011

All wishes are equal

I know I posted recently about how much I love Christmas and the Christmas spirit it brings.  I still love the goodwill that gets thrown about.  I still love the fact that people go out of their way to reach to neighbors and strangers.  I still love it all.  I do.

But I see the dark side to it too.  Christmas is a time when more is asked for people having a tough time financially.  People always have a hard time financially, holiday or not, but of course no one really wants to pay attention until the end of the year.  I think in the face of a holiday that one of my friends affectionately calls "Giftmas" it's harder to turn away from the fact that some families can't do nice gifts or big parties.  Some can't afford the extra food and fancy treats.  Some are still trying to make the rent.

However, today I read some woman's post of CafeMom, about how appalled she was that in an angel tree charity (where children write down what they wish for and strangers have the option to pick a card and get them the gift) some of these children asked for things like xbox games or an ipod nano.  She was totally turned off by the fact that some child who was "supposedly" needy had an xbox.  Or wanted a nice toy.  I have so many problems with this.

1) Take a look around.  It's a bad economy.  There are a lot of families that used to be doing fairly well that no longer are.  They might have been able to afford an xbox before, now they can't afford the game. Instead of being put off you should be happy that, thankfully, you are still not in that position.

2) Just because they are poor does not mean they aren't children.  Most kids today want the same things: electronics.  A new mp3 player, video games, personal devices.  Every year an item or two gets marketed up and every seven year old wants that particular thing.  It's a consumer culture and children are a prime target.  Do millions of toddlers need a Rock'nRoll Elmo?  Probably not.  Would they want it over some other toy if it hadn't been marketed to them?  Again probably not.  However, it has been and kids want what other kids have.  Just because these children come from needy families doesn't make them any less susceptible to peers.  Their friends at school will come back from break and all be talking about the new game or the new toy.  In order to be part of the norm, part of the crowd, these children will want to be able to talk about it too.  They, and their families, know it's not in the budget.  Doesn't mean they can't hope.

3)  It's called a gift!  Coming from the other point, the charity is looking to get a child something they want that they normally wouldn't be able to get.  Yes, they could probably use some new clothes and a few socks.  But it's Christmas and I don't know any child who waits to ask Santa for some underwear.  The point of asking an angel or a man in a red suit for something is that you're allowed to dream.  You're allowed to ignore the fact that dinner is gonna be slim.  That all year you bite your tongue and don't ask for things because you know there isn't money for it.  This time though, this one time of year, you can ask for it.  You can hope that someone, who doesn't have to worry about rent, might let you be a real, carefree kid this year.

4)  The gift isn't for you.  Yes, it's better to give than receive.  Yes, it makes you feel good that you did something for someone else.  Yes, that's all that should matter.  But seriously, that is ALL that should matter, take the good feeling and go with it, don't go looking for affirmation.  You're not gonna get a medal because you bought one kid a gift.  You're not Mother Teresa because you dropped off some canned foods.  You're a nice person, you might be generous, but you're not any better than the people who need the food or the gifts just because you can afford them.

For some reason there is this idea that the "poor" are some mystical beings who know the meaning of life and don't get bogged down in the material world like the rest of us.  They are right up there with the "Noble Savage" and the "Mystical Wise Old Black Man/Woman."  They live horrible lives and some how are just grateful to be a live.  And all the poor children are like Tiny Tim, who is dying of tuberculosis and probably in terrible pain, but still takes joy in his meager, fictional, plum pudding.

It's a disservice to anyone who could fit in the above categories.  Yes, family, love and togetherness are the things that will bring the most joy.  However, if you are too busy assuming that these mystical people are just happy being alive then you're allowing yourself to ignore the fact that life is still a hardship for them.  They might be smiling, but smiles don't fill the fridge.  And Christmas, a holiday created specifically to have some fun during the darkest part of the year, it's even harder to fill up on pure gratefulness.  Sometimes it would be nice to not have to be thankful just because you got a full meal that day.  Even Scrooge knew this.  Not only did he get the Cratchett's a goose, he bought the children toys!  Tiny Tim was probably very  grateful he wouldn't die, he probably really appreciated the full meal, but wasn't it nice that he also got to be spoiled with a toy too.

It's called a don't get to pass judgement on a wish!

1 comment:

Wendy L. Callahan said...

Yes, I agree. Times change. Whereas we wanted Strawberry Shortcake dolls, Walkmans, or tapes back in the 80's, kids now want the modern equivalent. Maybe the XBox a poor family has now was a treat from last year's tax return, but the expensive games mean that they only have one or two to play.

It's not about gifts, no. But I don't have any objection to fulfilling a kid's wishes if that is the way to make it a brighter holiday for them. For some, it's the only really exciting or happy day they will have.