If you’ve followed this blog at all, or if you’ve read The Old Money Book, you know how I feel about rampant consumerism. Aside from the obvious effect of crippling many Americans financially, it’s also eroding our personal relationships.
I feel that many people have substituted shopping for having real interests like reading, travel, mentoring, and simply sitting down with someone you care about and having a conversation.
I’m not a grump old man (yet), and I enjoy buying something new–occasionally–as much as the next person. Alright, probably not as much because most of things I buy tend to get better with age, but let’s not quibble: I’ve taken no vows of poverty, and certainly none of silence.
But trampling each other and fighting over toys the day after Thanksgiving is beneath us all. It’s an embarrassing, media-induced hysteria that sends otherwise sane people out into the streets and malls to buy merchandise of generally poor quality, which many of them cannot afford, to be given to friends and family to show them that we love them.
I have a not so novel idea: instead of buying someone something (which they may or may not like or use), invite them to a coffee shop or restaurant, far from a shopping center. Enjoy something hot to drink or eat, and, at some point in the conversation, pull out a piece of paper. On this piece of paper you’ll have written a list of the five or ten things you appreciate about this person, what they’ve meant to you, and the positive impact they’ve had on your life. You’ll read this list out loud to the person you’re with. And that will be your gift to them this holiday season.
I can assure you this: you will probably spend less and get more out of giving this gift than out of any transaction you could make at any store in the world. It will be appreciated more deeply. It will be remembered more fondly, for a much longer period of time. Throw in a smile, which is always a “must-have accessory” and a hug, which seems to warm everyone regardless of the weather, and you’ve got a very fine gift indeed.
To put a bow on it, you can add, as a last mention, that you’ve made a donation to Heifer International in your friend’s honor. (You can donate as little as ten dollars, and as much as you want.)
That’s the Old Money Black Friday Alternative. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Pass it on.