Every year, it seems I have a different opinion on Christmas and the season. The past few years I have not, honestly, enjoyed it. The absurd level of commercialism as well as, paradoxically, the meaning of a supposedly Christian holiday, have combined with my general distaste for cold weather to make me dread the entire season.
But this year I feel different. For one, I feel that, if it’s going to be cold, anyway, it might as well be pretty, as Michigan rarely is, and snow a little. And even in the spirit of the holiday–more pagan than Christian in origin and far more secular in practice–I feel like participating, in my own small way.
For years, I have wished simply that the exchange of gifts could be avoided. I am lucky, don’t want for much, and need less, and choosing gifts for others leaves me as hopelessly confused as I’m sure it leaves them (think of hideous holiday sweaters and the gifts cards which have become so common). I would rather spend the day drinking coffee or tea with those closest to me, enjoying the traditional Jewish Christmas meal of Chinese food, or perhaps reading in that big chair in the living room.
But, again, this year I feel different: this year my bleeding-heart, liberal, egghead snob side is showing through. Rather than abolish gift-giving, I think those of us who “have,” instead of giving to each other, should give to those who “have not.” Or at least to organizations promoting those things which are so sadly lacking in our society, like art, education, music, culture–and not just your culture.
So this year, I am asking my friends and family for nothing, no more and no less, but instead, to give a little of what they have–money, time, blood–to a group or organization they feel needs and will do good with what they have. (And in their own names, please.)
Here’s a list of some of the charities and organizations I support. If only I had the money I would give to them all:
- New York Public Library- Or your own, local library
- New York Public Theater- Or your own, local theater
- Wildlife Conservation Society
- Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra- Or your own, local symphony
- American Red Cross
- Amnesty International
- National Public Radio
- Public Broadcasting System
So please, this Christmas, think of the Bob Crachits and Tiny Tims of the world and in your own life, and, in the words of Louis Armstrong, “see what a wonderful world it would be, if we’d only give it a chance.”