exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

you gotta give to get back to the love

by Jen at 7:13 pm on 20.12.2009 | 4 Comments
filed under: family and friends, holidaze, mutterings and musings

now that i live an ocean away from my family, we usually don’t exchange gifts at Christmas. but the other day i saw a link to this charity gift card website, and thought it would be a really nice idea. so i sent everyone a small denomination giftcard which they can then donate to the charity of their choice. as part of the message going along with the giftcard i wrote:

This year I thought people would like the opportunity to pass on some good to any cause that is near and dear to their heart. Our family is so lucky, we have more than enough cheer to spread around

and while that it technically true – my family are lucky in that we all, thankfully, have enough to eat, shelter, and clothe ourselves – upon reflection, i think i’ve probably been a bit insensitive. i was really speaking only for myself – because while *i* have enough money to donate to others, others in my immediate family are definitely not as well-off. in fact, there are some in my family who probably could have made good use of that $25 themselves.

talking about this makes me a bit uncomfortable, actually. truth be told, i’m fairly well-off in comparison to many – i live in an expensive city, yet still have enough to do things like travel, go out to concerts, give nice gifts, and generally not worry too much. in fact, i live a fairly cushy lifestyle by some standards. that’s not to say that jonno and i don’t work hard, or watch our spending in other ways. but overall, we are extraordinarily lucky to have not only enough, but more than we need.

others in my family have it a bit harder. there are some who’ve had to rely on public aid. there are some who’ve had difficulty finding steady employment. there are some who worry about keeping the jobs they have. there are some who make ends meet – but only just.

and to be perfectly, excruciatingly honest, this is the only time it has occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it might bother them that i have certain financial freedoms that they don’t.

don’t get me wrong: there’s no one in my family who would let any one of us go without. but charity is a luxury available only to those that have a surplus. that’s a luxury that some of my family just don’t have.

if i critique my motives, i know that my heart was in the right place. but i have to wonder if perhaps i was so caught up in making the gesture to make myself feel good, that i never considered whether it was something that would make others feel good. if i wasn’t giving what i wanted to give, rather that what others would want to receive.

how’s that for selfish? i never stopped to think about it at all.

they say there is no such thing as a truly altruistic act, and i suppose i proved that to be true. but maybe even if my magnanimous gesture wasn’t such a great present for everyone else, at least it gave *me* something in return – a little self-awareness, a little sensitivity, and a little reminder of something i’d clearly forgotten. that no matter how well-intentioned, Christmas is not about the giving – it’s about family.

and what a gift that is indeed.

god knows (you’ve got to give to get) – el perro del mar

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

3 people like this post.


  • 1

    Comment by Dave

    22.12.2009 @ 16:20 pm

    We all thought it was a great idea. There is always someone worse off than you are regardless of your situation. This helps keep that fact in perspective. Nice that you are able to pick the charity as well which makes it more personal. Thank you!

  • 2

    Comment by A Free Man

    23.12.2009 @ 03:21 am

    I know what you mean, I’ve given that sort of gift myself. To people who probably could have used the money. This year, we’ve all agreed that we’re grownups and there’s no real need for presents anymore. Hopefully that solves it.

  • 3

    Comment by Inga

    23.12.2009 @ 12:00 pm

    I like this post. Thoughtful, as ever.

  • 4

    Comment by Jen

    24.12.2009 @ 09:47 am

    @inga – thanks! nice to see you again )

RSS feed for comments on this post