A Clarification

by Cait

In case this post comes across the wrong way, please accept this festive image by way of apology. And let me be the first to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. Unless you’re Canadian, then I’m probably the last.

Also: This is not a direct response to any commenters yesterday. Everything is fine between the commenteres and me, the response just made me think, and want to clarify!

I know my succinct post yesterday was received a couple of different ways, so I want to clear a few things up. For starters, I know that the first paragraph of the post may seem to detract from the message Shannan is trying to spread. Also, I understand that the fact that I said I donated the money we didn’t spend on Halloween candy may have been somewhat controversial. I’d like to say that I wasn’t trying to guilt trip anyone about buying candy, I was simply employing one of the persuasive essay tactics they taught me in 4th grade during FCAT prep – using statistics. Granted, they later taught about how that sort of thing can backfire because the reader may have an opposing viewpoint on your controversial topic. (Not that a lot of 4th graders talk about how a large amount of candy sickens them, or providing water for developing countries.)

Getting back to the point – my decision to donate to Shannan’s cause came after my decision not to hand out candy. I wasn’t judging anyone. Robert and I are certainly not saints when it comes to making donations or not buying frivolous things (one look at my sidebar wishlist will tell you that). As with most things in life, it’s a work in progress. I saw the $2.3 billion statistic a few days before Halloween, and probably would have bought candy anyway. It was only after driving through picture-perfect suburbia after work on Halloween, and seeing kids jump out of shiny SUVs in costume, that I decided I didn’t want to be a part of that this year. Does that mean I didn’t feel a little guilty about leaving the light off? No. Does that mean Robert and I won’t take our future kids trick-or-treating? Not necessarily. Not handing out candy wasn’t done in protest, and I would have donated even if I had handed out candy. I didn’t expected anyone to make the correlation between our not handing out candy and donating so families could have clean water.

I probably should have phrased things as “It’s shocking that Americans will shell out $7-10 on Halloween candy, but most won’t donate the same amount for children to have clean water.” Or maybe not that exact phrasing, because even that sounds a little judge-y.

Moving on from the Halloween topic, the past few years I’ve gotten exceedingly cranky around the holidays. (You can see some of that in this post from last year.) This is mostly because of all of the shopping and marketing that revolves around holidays. As a result of that, I started trying to include the option to donate to a charity rather than giving us gifts when I make wish lists for birthdays or Christmas. What I don’t stress enough is that I love gifts, but I don’t want someone to buy us something just to give us a gift. We don’t need anything! Robert and I are so fortunate in what we have, and while I love useful gifts (socks, tools, things I was going to buy anyway), I love it even more when I see our local humane society rebuild their kennels after the fire they had a few years ago. I love hearing that there is new research being done on diseases that claimed the lives of people I care about.

All of this to say, if you are stumped for gift ideas this holiday season, would you consider making a donation in the name of a loved one? You can tailor your donation specifically to the person, something that will be meaningful to them. Some of Robert’s  and my favorite charities include the Humane Society, the ASPCA, Habitat for Humanity, the Alzheimer’s Foundation, the Parkinson’s Foundation, and the American Lung Association,  just to name a few. There are great ideas for kids, too. When I was in elementary school my parents gave me a packet that explained how they had adopted a manatee in my name. (I think mine was Merlin.) My elementary school adopted one, too. I think the purchase of the plush manatee I had (I’m pretty sure his tag said Hugh Manatee, but I called him Howie) also gave a small donation to saving manatees. Our local zoo has a similar adoption program, and it’s closer to home, so kids could visit their animal. Toys for Tots and the program that some bookstores have where you can buy a book for a child who may go without are also fantastic. We bought presents for a less fortunate family one Christmas when I was growing up, and the book program I mentioned a few times, and it was always memorable. It’s so much fun for kids to give someone else a copy of a favorite book or toy, and it teaches a great lesson.

If you do not like the strictly-donation route you could consider it in addition to a small gift, or maybe make an effort to shop for local or fair trade products when shopping this holiday season.

Hope this did not come across as judgemental. I’m triyng to work on being informative and encouraging without being pushy. I think Jane at The Borrowed Abode is very good at making that distinction. She is a small business advocate, makes an effort to shop locally when possible, and tries to only buy things that are fair trade. She’s also planning a mostly local/small business wedding, with with lots of other eco-friendly decisions. So if you aren’t familar with her fantastic blog, be sure to check that out.

8 Comments to “A Clarification”

  1. We don’t celebrate Halloween here (at least not until a few years ago, people are now starting to “copy” you guys) nor Thanksgiving, but I can relate with the marketing ploys regarding the holidays. In Spain, it’s typical to eat “turrón” during Christmas – a sweet usually made with almond paste, chocolate, or both – but what started as a tradition has now become a mere selling point. They started selling bars of chocolate turrón at – I kid you not – the beginning of October. More than two months ahead of the official holiday season (which is December 20th-Jan 6th around here).
    Anyway. I love how you donated money towards a good cause!

    • Thank you for the comment, Ainhoa!

      Christmas has basically become a HUGE marketing scheme in the US. Stores started selling holiday things in the beginning of October here, too, and now that Halloween is out of the way it’s only going to get worse. The past few years people have seemed to skip over Thanksgiving completely and focus on Christmas. It’s getting a little ridiculous. Fortunately we have started to see “Small Business Saturday” as well as Black Friday (You probably don’t have that in Spain, but it’s basically a shopping hoilday the day after Thanksgiving. Lots of sales and craziness.)

      Rober and I are already having so much fun thinking of meaningful places to donate in loved ones’ names. Maybe it will start to catch on and cancel out a little of the Christmas craziness.

  2. OH my gosh. . . I was reading through, thinking “I love what Cait is talking about here!” and then . . bam. I’m so touched to be mentioned in this way. I try so hard to share my beliefs without being preachy or making others feel judged. I believe that everyone must find their own balance with these sorts of things.

    I personally love your line “It’s shocking that Americans will shell out $7-10 on Halloween candy, but most won’t donate the same amount for children to have clean water.” That’s the kind of thing that gives me pause. One day I realize that if I make room in my budget for lattes at the coffee shop, then I should be able to donate the same amount to various causes that I believe in.

    I’ve become more and more anti-holiday-consumerism, for many of the same thoughts that you’ve shared above. Especially when I see families who struggle to pay their mortgage month-to-month feeling they “need” to give their children physical gifts of high monetary value.

    But I think I’m rambling now. Anyway, my point is, if we ever get to share a cup of [fair trade] coffee in real life, I bet we’ll have a great discussion about these sorts of things!

    • As I was writing this I thought “I really need to make sure I mention Jane”. :)

      “I believe that everyone must find their own balance with these sorts of things.” I couldn’t agree more! There are so many wonderful ways to give back, what’s right for one person may not be right for the next.

      I don’t think you were rambling! And I agree, I bet we’d have a great chat over (fair trade) coffee!

  3. I hate that the holidays are a huge marketing ploy! I was at the mall last week – LAST.WEEK. – and Christmas songs were being pumped through some of the stores already. It sucks because it should always be about family and not the gifts or whatnot. I’m not a huge philanthropic person and I rarely donate money except for when I’m suddenly moved by the cause. But I do try to cherish the time I have with my family without breaking the bank. It’s disgusting that we – as a country- completely skip over the most important holiday throughout the year … Thanksgiving. A day for giving Thanks. Yes, it was routed in us conquering and stealing land from Native Americans. But alas, its about being thankful for what we have.

    • Oh my goodness, department store Christmas music is the worst! I completely agree, holidays should be about time with family. Robert and I do what we can as far as philanthropy goes, but we are definitely not breaking the bank or putting any well-renowed philanthropists to shame. Every little bit counts though, you know?

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