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Thanksgiving Ideals Versus Holiday Consumerism

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November 19, 2017

Thanksgiving is barely here and stores are already pushing holiday buying. It strikes me that the point of Thanksgiving—the gratitude and generosity—get lost in the shuffle. Parents who take time out to emphasize these important values face the overwhelming tsunami of consumerism that immediately follows.

How can we take the beautiful sentiment of November and carry it through the mad rush of the me-me-me season? How can we focus on what we have instead of what we want? There’s no way I’m going to avoid my kids’ Christmas lists or the way they ask for everything they see in the store. They’re still too young to understand that they have enough.

Then it struck me: instead of trying to get rid of the me aspects of the holidays, I could instead steer their focus toward others as much as possible.

I decided to make the next month more about others over ourselves. Here are three things I’m going to try:

1. Make Room and Give Smiles 

Our house is tiny. It’s not an exaggeration to say that if we don’t get rid of some old toys, there won’t be room for any new ones. Unfortunately, that task is difficult for my kids. The prospect of giving up a toy reminds them how much they love it, even if they haven’t touched it in a year. Every parent knows that a kids never loves a toy more than when you want to give it away.

This year, I’ve taken a new approach. I told my kids the story of when my daughter was two and we had almost no money. I had to get very creative for the holidays, including going to the thrift store and repurposing items. Now when they look at a beloved toy, they can imagine passing on the joy to someone else. My daughter has held onto her dolls and accessories for quite awhile even though she seldom plays with them. She told me this week that she is willing to give the toys up, so another mom out there can put a smile on her child’s face this holiday season.

2. Make Kids a Part of the Process

The holiday season often gets so busy that the only input my kids have in gift-giving is to sign some cards. This year, we’re starting early and they are helping to choose the gifts we get for family members. We’re also going to be giving some homemade gifts, like banana bread, and fudge. My kids are also going to make some individualized cards. My hope is that they will consider the likes and interests of the people they’re giving to when they make the cards. I think they will also appreciate the smiles they receive from the card recipients.

3. Put Your Money to a Good Cause

I was in a coffee shop the other day when a display of beautiful bracelets caught me eye. They were made by people in a poor village in Thailand, where the shop purchases its coffee. The man behind the counter told us he planned to return to the village shortly, taking the money he received for the bracelets to purchase more coffee. He told us every bit of money helps significantly. I suggested we buy a bunch of bracelets to give to teachers, friends, and coaches. My kids thought this was a great idea and loved being able to help people who have so much less than we do.

It’s hard to avoid a checklist mentality. November: Let’s be grateful. Check. December: Let’s buy presents. Check. In the end, I think anything we do to build awareness of others and think less about ourselves helps build a year-round mindset of gratitude and generosity.

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