Sunday, December 11, 2011

Please Read This

Christmas was the best day ever when I was a little kid, just like it is for so many kids today.  But as I've gotten older, there are a few things about it that are like old clothes: for some reason, they just don't seem to fit quite as well as they used to.  I still enjoy the socializing and the food.  It is more the gift thing that just seems a little awkward now.
Best Christmas Movie Ever, Bar None
I am not a very materialistic person.  I also understand the difference between "need" and "want".  If I need something, I get it because I actually need it.  If I want something, I tend to mull it over for some time.  What I have found is that the things I think I want are fleeting, and what I think I want one month, I am no longer interested in the next.  To quote Sheryl Crow:

It's not having what you want,
It's wanting what you've got.

It is very rare that I will buy something I think I want on the spur of the moment.  This discipline serves me very well.  It saves money and keeps down on the amount of clutter around the house.  I've found clutter like this tends to depress me, so avoiding it in the first place just helps me feel better.
I Am A Few Ounces Of Discipline Away From This...
I also have gotten to be pretty particular about the things I buy.  If I decide I want something, I'll get something that does all the things I want it to do.  I do a lot of research before putting down my hard earned cash.  That doesn't necessarily mean that it is expensive.  It means it does what I want it to do at a good price.  The internet is an absolute godsend for me.

So lets get back to Christmas.  I was getting gifts in recent years from very well meaning friends and relatives that I wasn't really enjoying or using that much: books I wouldn't get around to reading, stuff that I never used, etc.  It just seemed kind of wasteful despite the best of intentions.  This stuff and another incident I won't get in to started turning me off the whole gift thing.  So after Christmas a couple of years ago, I decided it was time to do something different.  I simply asked everyone that in lieu of a gift to me, that they instead make a donation to a charity of their choice.

You see, one of my numerous shortcomings is that I don't donate much to charity.  My request would indirectly address this shortcoming and take some of the commercialization out of the holiday season that was bugging me as well.  I was killing two birds with one stone.  Sheer genius, eh?  I'm right up there with the great physicists of our time: Einstein, Planck, and Spears.
First Row, Fourth From the Right
So last year was the first year that there were no gifts under the tree for me.  How did it  work out?  Much better than I had expected, without a doubt.  It was a little weird in that it was different for me.  However, I felt great each time I heard of other person's act of giving.
I learned of the most memorable of these events when I drove home on Christmas day 2010 to see my mom and spend the day with her.  She told me that she had made a donation to the Children's Wish Foundation, whose goal is to bring some happiness to children who are facing a pretty dire situation.  This is a charity dear to her heart (again for a couple reasons I won't go in to).  She had made her donation to Children's Wish earlier that month, and that was great.  But for her, what really made it was when the charity phoned her just before the holiday to express their gratitude.  They didn't ask for more money, they simply thanked her.  She told me that this was the best thing that had happened to her all holiday.

That made me feel pretty awesome.  I'm getting a little choked up typing this in even now.

Fast forward a year to 2011.  I got a Christmas card from my mom in the mail just the other day.  I opened it up so I could read it and put it onto the mantle with the rest of them.  But this was no ordinary card.
I didn't realize it was my Christmas present until I opened the card and started reading.
A goat brings lasting abundance to hungry families.
For impoverished families, a gift of one or even two goats is a fantastic milk, food, and income source.  The family will also receive training on how to breed the goat and start a business.  Because of you, this precious gift can even be the start of a flourishing dairy business for the family that receives it.  Thank you!
Mom had done it again.  I was totally taken aback.  The card was from World Vision.  They work "to improve child well-being and to serve people around the world regardless of religion, race, gender or ethnicity".  Mom had chosen this goat from the many options listed in their gift catalogue.  Her choice meant some family I will never meet will get a shot at a better life vs. me getting something I don't really want and won't use.  Seems like a pretty good deal to me.

Whoever said it was better to give than to receive was right.  I know that now.

Why not find this out for yourself if you haven't already done so?  Consider giving either some of your cash, some of your time, or some of what you might have coming your way this season to a cause you support.  Or maybe you've enjoyed what you've read on this blog or learned something useful and want to show some appreciation?  That works too.  Pick a cause and help them out.  Whatever cause you choose isn't important, as long as it is important to you.

If you decide to do something, that would be fantastic.  If you don't, that is OK too.  Your choice.  Whatever you choose to do, the staff of Mad Scientist Labs wishes you a safe and happy holiday, and the best of 2012.

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