Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Target Christmas catalog came in the mail this week. It was artfully done: colorful, and full of happy smiling children. It’s goal was to convince you that you could have a joyful Christmas only if you bought all this stuff guaranteed to produce joyful children (stuff available at Target, of course). Mostly that meant very expensive stuff. Mostly that meant electronic stuff. Electronic stuff that had, in every case, one solitary child interacting with an image on a TV screen.

I fear that too many parents, especially parents with little money, will despair (at least subliminally) of having happy children this Christmas because they can’t possibly afford to buy any of this stuff. They may even know that this catalog is a lie—that nothing in it can produce real happiness. Interacting with something electronic is an empty, ultimately unsatisfying endeavor. Loving interactions with other people, genuinely connecting with other people, serving others, seeking to make others happy—this produces real happiness.

I remember being a parent with little or no money for Christmas gifts. I remember overhearing my children say (about dozens of items), “I want THAT for Christmas!” as they watched yet another commercial on TV or looked at yet another printed ad. (Some scriptures come to mind: “their eyes are full of greediness.”) I felt like throwing the TV in the trash just to stop the “I want”s. It was making my children covetous and materialistic. And that guaranteed that they would be miserable on Christmas morning, and that they would think themselves deprived and cheated.

I don’t know at what age a person finally realizes that most “stuff” cannot guarantee happiness. Perhaps some people live their whole lives and never come to that realization. An old song from my parent’s era proclaimed that “the best things in life are free.” It was never a favorite of mine—crummy tune, bad poetry, saccharine sentiments. But, it seems to become truer all the time.

The moon belongs to everyone.
The best things in life are free.
The stars belong to everyone.
They gleam there for you and me.

The flowers in spring,
The robins that sing,
The sunbeams that shine,
They're yours, they're mine.

And love can come to everyone.
The best things in life are free.

My biggest fear is that we are all addicted to our electronic stuff and have lost touch with stuff that is real. And wholesome. And healing. And deeply satisfying. Anyone up for a walk in (or a dive into) the autumn leaves?


Jen said...


Rebecca said...

We still have fond memories of the Christmas's of our youth. I have shared with my children the traditions that began in the home of my parents and some they have embraced.

We have created opportunities for our children to serve others and they especially love to serve at Christmas time.

Because of the circumstances of my youth, my children are learning to not be materialistic and greedy.

Thanks You!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you! Every time a Christmas catalog shows up, I chuck it. Last year, I finally got fed up with the whole gifting thing. It focuses too much on the getting, and not on what Christmas is supposed to be about.
When I was at the hospital, Jeremy and I were waiting to leave and we had the TV on, and they had a commercial where the child was playing alone with a "learning" toy. The child looked completely ecstatic. Jeremy and I just looked at eachother. Bleh. We decided to cut back on TV quite a while ago, and it has made a huge difference in how our kids behave. The idea of hooking them up to yet another electronic device is horrifying!
Besides, no matter what toys I buy my kids, in the end, they tire of them, and I feel like I just wasted a whole ton of money. The only things they have never tired of (and I hope they never will) are books.
Every couple of weeks, I feel like going through all of Josh and Eva's toys and throwing a whole bunch of it away. Most of the time, it just takes up valuable space. :P