Talking with friends, family and co-workers, I'm sensing some giving weariness attached to this Christmas season. They're talking about drawing back on how many presents required to be given to others. We're not talking about doing less for children but others.
"We're giving gifts to thirty-five people," my friend Michael told me. "Thirty-five." He has a long face, perfect for looking aggreived, and he sounded and resembled the embodiment of aggreivement. "Kids' teachers, people in church, mailman, trash collector, cousins, aunts, distant relatives. Where will it all end?"
It amused me. I don't have children and my sisters and I long ago said, Hey, you're an adult, buy your own gift. That happened the year I gave to charities in their names. "What are you giving to a charity for?" my brother-in-law whined in jest. "I'm raising two teen-age boys. That makes me a charity. You should be giving to me."
Telling Michael that didn't help. "How do you cut back?" he asked. "Where do you draw the line?"
Well, I drew the line beneath Mom and Dad. My sisters give their children sufficiently that more is not needed from me. Grandmas and Grandpas, and other aunts and uncles fill in any perceived thinness in the final tally.
I do give but I'm more particular about who receives my gifts. I prefer to give to help a poor family get ahead by donating a goat, blankets, winter coats, books, water, eye glasses, shoes and cell phones. I give to my trash collector and mail man because I like them and I appreciate what they do. I also donate toys to some other organizations that distribute them to needy families, and a few other charities.
I didn't know what to tell Michael. Talk to the others? Have an honest conversation with them? I think the session was more about kvetching. "I'll probably spend close to two grand this year," he moaned. "Two grand, and that doesn't include my wife." That was a surprising number, higher than the figure of $700 I saw projected for most average American households.
"Well, talk to your wife. Start by not giving her a gift."
"Not give her a gift? Are you crazy?"
"Does she give you gifts?"
He winced. "Yeah, CDs. DVDs, things like that."
"It's probably because you resemble Santa Claus," I told Michael.
Michael stared at me. "What?"
"People probably expect gifts from you because you look like Santa Claus. You know,Kris Kringle. Haven't you heard that before?" With his white hair, short stature and elfish features, he does resemble a beardless Santa that's been successful with a diet.
I was enjoying the moment. He stared at me for several long seconds and then shook his head. "Why do I bother talking with you?"
"Don't be like that, Santa," I replied. He turned his body, tuning me out by crossing his arms and legs and pointedly looking elsewhere. "Santa," I continued. "Come on, Santa. Hey Santa, come on, don't be like that. Let me buy you a drink."
"If you say -- "
"Milk or hot chocolate?"
He was gone in the twinkle of an eye, but I heard him exclaim as he strode out of sight, "Screw you all, it's been a hell of a night."
So much for Michaelmas.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com