Too often, I’m writing about how quickly time passes and how incredulous I am that another month has gone by, that another semester is nearly over. There is a seasonality to being an educator that is both comforting and confounding. The beginning of the school year is dizzying, trying to internalize the rhythm of a new schedule. And just when I settle into a routine, it’s already the end of November and this steam train is headed straight into the end of the semester.
My students are distracted and so am I as the lure of the holiday season creeps slowly backwards from December into the end of November. Everywhere you look it’s the season of giving and the season of thanks juxtaposed with a season of excess consumption. We should be sharing with the “less fortunate” and buying “must-haves” to shower our family and friends. These competing messages grind against one another.
Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I know the commercialization of the holiday overshadows the religious and spiritual meaning of the day. Mass consumption has clouded the whole season, confusing Christmas and Hanukkah and throwing the retail world into a tailspin. Commercialization of the holiday has grown even in the years since I worked in retail, and we seem to have lost sight of being thankful. We’re spurned to buy and “giving back” is secondary.
This is just the beginning of the time of year when giving is at an all time high. There are so many opportunities to give money or time or goods to charities and non-profit organizations. And because it’s the holiday season, we can feel good about helping other people. But after the new year, food insecurity, poverty, and people’s needs recede from view. We hunker down for the winter, with our must-have gifts and our sky-high credit card bills, and we hardly see those still in need.
I am especially troubled by the excess and paucity of stuff and food this year having just moved into a new house and celebrating Hanukkah and Thanksgiving on the same day. My family has been asking things that we need. “What do the girls need?” They also ask me, “What do you need for the new house?”
I want to publicly state that we need nothing. Having just packed all of our things into boxes, moved those boxes less than three miles away and staring at the resulting chaos, I can honestly say, we need nothing. [Sidenote: My husband will disagree–he’ll say that we need this or that thing to put in our house or for the girls.]
Sure, there are things that I want. I want new boots. I want an e-reader. I want a hammock for the yard. But do I need those things? I need nothing.
I have so many things that I know others would never take for granted. I have a safe and comfortable home. I have electricity and food when I want it. If I lose electricity, the power company will come to fix it (usually). If I don’t feel like cooking or our cupboards seem bare, we can eat out or make a run to the grocery store. I have options. I have a car than gets me where I want to go and I have enough money to afford the gas. I have a husband who cares about me (and who is undoubtedly rolling his eyes at this post). I have two incredible children who make my life better every day they’re in it. I have a family that has always supported me. I have so much.
No one can give me the things I actually need. I need more time in the day to spend with my family and to rest. I need job security and more time in my work week to tackle the research that sits collecting dust in the corner of my office (and my brain). I do without these things but I don’t suffer like those folks who are hungry for food or work or housing.
In this season of excess, of unbridled consumption, I hope others will think about the things they can give to others and the things they already have. And when the holiday season draws to a close, I hope others will continue sharing with others truly in need.