Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Do the first seven words of this sentence send you into a frenzy?

I saw this in a business story yesterday:

NEW YORK (AP) — With Christmas only about eight weeks away, shoppers are feeling more forlorn about the economy than they have since hurricanes Katrina and Rita battered the Gulf Coast two years ago.

I know some people who have been preparing and shopping for months. I know some people who will wait until the last week to even begin thinking about Christmas.

Of course, since it is Halloween and the candy displays and jack o' lanterns will be replaced with wreaths and twinkle lights before the last little goblin is tucked in for the night... well, it's hard to not think about Christmas. Or, to be more PC, the winter, gift-giving holidays.

It became a lot easier for me a few years ago when mom, sis and I decided that we would not give each other gifts. Instead we would take the money we would have spent buying each other another sweater or purse or gift certificates for the movies and instead do something charitable.

My choice has always been an adopt-a-family program sponsored by the Volunteer Center of the South Bay in Torrance.

I call them up and tell them I want to sponsor a family and they ask me how many people. One year it was a single father of two little boys. Another year it was a single mother with a boy and a girl.

Then they send me a wish list and I get to go shopping. And let me tell you, that is a great shopping trip. It is so much fun to ponder a gift for a child you will never know. Really.

It makes you realize that giving can be so much better than any gift you can receive.

The first couple years, when I was married, we went all out on these kids we sponsored. There were bikes and helmets for each kid, plus gift certificates of $100 each for Old Navy. Hey, say what you will, for a kid Old Navy has great clothes at decent prices. We also sent along a $100 gift certificate for a local grocery chain.

Last year I decided to see if my whole family wanted to get in on the action with me. Since I was single, spending $400-$500 was a bit excessive.

So I got my my, sister and aunt in on it. Then an uncle threw in some money for the cause and my manfriend ponied up, too to buy rechargeable batteries and chargers.

Since there were so many of us involved, we decided to do two families. Each was a single mother. One had a teenage daughter and one had a baby girl.

My mom, sis, aunt and I did all the shopping.

And even without the amount of money I was able to spend when I was with the ex-husband, we still managed to buy toys and pajamas and books for the kids. We bought a CD player for the teenager. There were new clothes for the moms and the requested bibles and rosaries.

Then we all got together with our tape and paper and scissors and had a wrapping party. By the time it was over there was a giant pile for each kid and a pretty good pile for each mom.

I delivered the stuff to the group home where these families were staying.

I never met them, but I walked out of there with a huge smile on my face.

And on Christmas Day, as I watched my younger cousins tear open gifts from under the Christmas tree, I knew that on the other side of town there were a couple moer kids laughing and smiling as wrapping paper flew around them.


Susan said...

This is why I enjoy halloween so much - totally non-stressful holiday. No guilt (except that I"m eating candy right now.)

Sponsoring a family is a good thing.

ReesePie said...

Sounds like a great idea! I love shopping for presents for ANYBODY.

Sona said...

I despise the rush to Christmas. It makes the whole thing seems so stressing.

Sona said...

I despise the rush to Christmas. It makes the whole thing seems so stressing.

Jill said...

Susan: I think one of the thinsg on my to-do list for Monday is to call the Volunteer Center and start the process. It is really one of the things I look forward to most at Christmas now.

Reese: Yeah, I enjoy finding the perfect thing and seeing the look on the recipient's face. I can't wait until my nephew is older and I can find all the unique, fun toys for him.

Sona: I am with you. It really takes the fun out of the season to be so stressed. Our family gathering is still a bit about the gifts since there are always kids involved. But mostly it is hanging out, eating, talking...