I miss cold weather. However, to be clear, I only miss the cold enough that I’d like to experience it for two weeks and be done. I miss the cold like I miss American commercials on TV — I don’t want to just sit and watch commercials. But, at the same time, there’s something comfortable and reassuring about American commercials. I grew up with them. They were always there. If my television programming is going to be interrupted by something (and it’s not a pizza delivery guy), I want it to be an American commercial. American commercials are of high quality and are oftentimes humorous. Also, there are generally enough of them that we don’t have to watch the same one twice in every commercial break.*
So I feel about cold weather kind of like American commercials. I like the idea of the cold when comparing it to our temperature here (hot). Every day. All the time. Hot. So I like the idea of cold, but I don’t want to trade long-term, 80 degrees for 30. Rather, I want to put on a long-sleeve shirt and a fleece for a couple of weeks (not the same shirt for the whole two weeks) and then pack them away in a closet for the remainder of the year. I want to vacation in cold weather. That’s what I want. But I want my two weeks to start today.
I’ve been thinking about Christmas a lot lately — wait, that’s not true. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’ve not been thinking a lot lately about Christmas. I like Christmas, I want to think about Christmas, but it’s not very “Christmasy” here in Tanzania. The cold weather is just one of many Christmas experiences we’re missing.**
[Now for a very poor attempt at a transition containing a play on words.]
There is a lot I miss about Christmas, like the cold. But I do not in any way miss American commercial…ism. At Christmas, we Americans spend lots of money buying ourselves gifts — by trading wish lists and exchanging gift cards. I don’t miss that at all.
In fact, I wanted to write a post which combats commercialism, materialism, and the spending of excessive*** amounts of money. But I’m going to be realistic instead. Americans are going to continue spending money on Christmas, no matter what I write. I am not, through my little blog, going to change the world or even the jewelry department at Macy’s. Materialism rules the majority of hearts at Christmas, and reciprocity rules most others — so I’m not going to write that blog post.
I am, however, going to write the following one.
In light of the reality that Americans are not going to stop spending altogether, I’d like to suggest a few things we can do to keep us mindful of what’s important in life — and to encourage us to think of others in need and to help them:
- Could we agree to match the money spent on gift purchases in giving to charities or to the homeless? Or if we’re not willing to go dollar-for-dollar, could we offer even a percentage of the total?
- We could set limits on gift-spending within a group that buys for one another. And then stick to those limits. There’s always someone who spends more and says, “Well, I know we set a limit, but I saw this and I just HAD to get it for you…”****
- If your group already sets spending limits, why not make them $5-10 lower this year, and use the money saved to help a family in need?
- My wife, my brother and sister, and I promote togetherness rather than buying by agreeing to do something as a group. The movie we go to (or putt-putt, etc) is then in lieu of exchanging gifts.
- How about we commit to give away any of our current belongings that are replaced by new gifts this year? If you receive a new jacket, you give away an old jacket. If you receive an Ipod, your old one is given to somewhat less fortunate. [We don't SELL the items, but we give them away.] This way we can at least keep tabs on how many of a thing we have — so that we don’t amass wealth and possessions.
Anyway, these are just some ideas. Do you have others?
* Pakistani television (which we get here) has a total of about four commercials. I’m not kidding. In every commercial break, we see the same four commercials, and we see at least two of them twice in every commercial break. Pakistani commercials are almost as bad as Canadian commercials.
** We also have a general lack of decorations, music, parties, Santa Claus lap-sitting, people ringing bells to ask for money, and arguments about “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays.”
*** I know, I know, who gets to determine what is indeed excessive, and what is not?
**** That person is Carson McNeal. He even told us when we were setting the limit for our team gift exchange ($6.25) that we should set it low, and then when he went over, it wouldn’t be excessive. Now there’s a guy who knows how to make some rules…