As I watch the delivery trucks roll up and down the street, though thankful that people are trying to stay out of stores, I’m feeling a little wistful for a less materialistic culture. I wonder what instant gratification and trying to find happiness in the stockpiling of stuff has done to our souls, not to mention our environment. I’m worried about the young people around me who are quick to say, “Just get a new one,” instead of trying to fix the old or live (contentedly) with something that’s not cutting edge.
An article in the New York Times noted that toddlers with more baby products in the house (namely flame retardant and plastic ones) had high levels of chemicals in their bloodstream—chemicals that may cause neurodevelopmental and behavioral problems, cancer, infertility, and more.
The repair shop down the road went out of business a couple years ago. Friends in the appliance business tell me microwaves and the like are built specifically not to last: wires are glued, rust occurs faster because of fewer coats of paint, plastic parts crack, and electronic panels overheat and stop working by design. Industry told us our perfectly good white refrigerators were now passe, even if magnets holding up our kids’ artwork actually stuck. Many of us rushed out to buy stainless appliances that could be used for crime scene investigation because of how well fingers printed on them. But guess what? Retro white is coming back! Luckily (or unluckily), our stainless appliances won’t last and since it usually costs more to repair than replace, the conveyor belt of materials taken from the earth’s crust keeps on chugging.
What are we doing?
Friends, if you are like me, you feel pressured at Christmas to buy stuff to show love and yet feel conflicted about the piles of plastic and electronics that fill our homes. Let’s not miss the irony of celebrating the birth of the Christ child born to the peasant young woman by buying stuff we generally don’t need while so many are struggling to pay rent and feed families during the pandemic.
What is our faithful response? One of the side effects of going through a time of crisis is that we can come out on the other side changed—the biblical concept of Kairos.
Let’s help each other find joy through giving that is more than just a consumeristic click. Let’s teach our kids to create and value gifts from the heart. My most precious presents have been works of art created by my offspring when they were little, handprints in salt dough and art with a story, nailed to the wall where they make me smile without fail. My grandmother wrapped up bits from family travels, boldly regifting treasures that remind me of her now that she is gone. Give gifts of food (support those local small businesses!), experiences (even if they have to be delayed), books (that’s one thing you can never have too many of), and your time. Even during a time of distancing, dogs at the shelter need walks, pantries need to be stocked, quilts need to be sewn.
Let’s rethink our gifting to reflect the humble birth of Christ who gave himself for all.