To give is to receive

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Oh well, that’ll teach me to whinge about Christmas…

Well, I just posted off my Christmas present to my sister. Probably too late, but that’s me all over – I never do get organazized about Christmas till it’s crawling up my nose. Hopeless.

The rule in this house when it comes to presents is generally ‘make it or find it’ and it took me quite a while to make hers this year. It’s a red, black and pearl bracelet to go with the necklace I made her last year – something unique to go with the clothes colours she normally wears. Meanwhile my friend Mandy is making fudge for her famliy, presented in some gorgeous little boxes she picked up.

I fell on the idea of making gifts a few years ago when we bought loads of souvenirs for people from our trip to Brittany but the thing they were most taken with was the giant pine cones I’d found in Carnac. Everybody wanted one, and they cost precisely nothing, except a bit of effort picking them up. I now bring people pebbles, seashells and just the odd daft souvenir.

On Care2Connect the other day I also read something that made me think: name what you got for last Christmas. Maybe you can do that, but how about the year before? How about the year before that? Chances are, you can’t. This year, as the crunch bites, we are all whingeing (me included) about not being able to ‘afford’ Christmas but maybe the truth is, it simply doesn’t make sense to spend money on ‘things’ as Christmas presents. Opening the package is the fun part – five minutes later, you can’t even remember who gave you what. Back in the 1970s, after all, didn’t we all enjoy Christmas just as much when all we got was a big sock with some oranges and Maltesers? I should get a bloody grip.

The DH and I are getting each other one token pressie this year – in his case a DVD, in mine a book (both from Amazon marketplace). In fact even the book ended up being an object lesson in having too much stuff. I asked him to get me something specific, but since the title was familiar, we double-checked first that we didn’t have it already. When it arrived, I then found the copy I’d bought him two years ago, sitting there large as life on the shelf. Not only did he not remember reading it, which he had, he didn’t even remember GETTING it. Aargh. Still, my nephew will be the beneficiary of this mix-up, as it’s his birthday on New Year’s Day.  

I make Christmas cards for local friends, while friends and family abroad usually get e-cards. We’ll make a donation to Kiva in their name instead of a card this year, which grants loans to people in the second and third world. We always pick businesses owned by women and this year I find we’ve helped 10 businesses get on their feet, including a fruit-and-veg seller in Bolivia, a metalworker in Vietnam and a used-clothing seller in Bosnia Herzogovina. As our loans are paid back – which they are very quickly – we just reinvest with another borrower and the money is now starting to really build up. 

I was taken aback by it, I must say. I didn’t realise we were up to 10 loans. But there is no surer cure for feeling rubbish about life than to know you’ve made a difference to someone, and to be brought up short by how disgustingly rich we all are in the west, compared with the rest of the world.

Which is why I was so pleased this morning on the Beeb to see British schoolkids using their own pocket money to sent Christmas packages to Rumanian children. The look on those British kids’ faces when they saw how little the Rumanian children had and how delighted they were with the presents was a fantastic moment. Hopefully it will make those children compassionate, empathetic adults when they grow up.

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