Most people are pulling back this Christmas—one study I saw today said people expect to spend 50% less than last year! Retailers are petrified that Black Friday will be red after all. Our family is definitely being more conservative this Christmas in an attempt to save and in a realization that we (and our kids) just don’t need more stuff.
While people are spending less on Christmas, people are also spending less on charitable giving. And while charities’ budgets are shrinking, the need is growing, with more families out of work and money stretched tight. Here in SLC, Sub For Santa and several other organizations that help needy families at Christmas have already stopped taking new families entirely, having reached capacity and the limits of their budgets. They say this hasn’t happened before so early in the season.
There is a growing movement to encourage people who are still above water to still cut back some and give instead to charity—and by replacing gifts to friends and family with a card or a letter that explains that a donation has been made in their name. For our normal family gift exchange this year, I was going to suggest that instead we all put a $10 toward a donation to the local shelter to increase the spirit of the season not just for us, but for families—and especially children—who are really having a hard time.
We’ve been reading in the Book of Mormon lately King Benjamin’s service about our responsibility to care for the poor, and these ten short verses really hit me hard and made me commit to a different plan for this Christmas, and I hope you’ll join me in encouraging others to sacrifice more stuff this Christmas to help our fellow brothers & sisters. “Are we not all beggars?”
God’s plan is not that we should be forced to give our excess substance to the poor, but that we will CHOOSE to give it. He says, “It is not given that one man should apossess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.” (D&C 49: 20). In Morm. 8: 37 and 2 Ne. 28: 13 the prophets go so far as to say that when get excess or fancy stuff, we are actually robbing the poor.
Ben, Sophie and I just read in Little House on the Prairie about their Christmas, and how thrilled the girls were to find in their stockings their very own tin cup (so they wouldn’t have to share at the table anymore), a big stick of candy, a cake made out of (gasp!) both white flour AND white sugar and a shiny penny. They were overflowing with tears and gratitude—and that was their whole Christmas. My kids were simply horrified.
It’s not that I haven’t thought about these things before, it’s just that as I was getting ready to put together our list, and I have felt that I need to show my kids how to enjoy Christmas beyond the presents. Sure, they’ll still get presents, but I’ve seen in years past that too much in that arena doesn’t help anybody. I want to work on this in a way that doesn’t make them resentful or feel deprived, and I think there is a way to be more modest this year and still do that. At the same time, I want to show them that the needs out there are great, and we need to do what we can to help the uncomfortable become more comfortable, rather than just add to our own comforts.
That’s what’s on my mind today and I wanted to pass it a long in my own lame way of trying to help the sad cause of charities right now—pass along the thought if you feel so inclined.