I got you something!

For the last few years, my wife and I have participated in Advent Conspiracy (read more about it here.)  We try to spend less on gifts and instead give relationally, so as to give gifts of real value and use some of the money we save to bless others around the world.  It’s been really awesome, but it’s also a bit of work.

One thing we’ve shied away from, is giving gifts to charities on behalf of other people.  It’s a consideration sometimes for extended family members who we might not see at all, and who we don’t know well enough to give good relational gifts to.

It’s also a bit of a cultural joke.  There’s even a Seinfeld episode about it, where George invents a fake charity and then gives people cards telling them of the “donations made on their behalf”  The joke is that giving to a charity on behalf of someone is not a real gift (even to a real charity), and it is dissatisfying for the receiver and cheap for the giver.

But you know what?  That’s bullshit.  I DO think that a relational gift is going to be better than a donation made in someone’s name, but A) there are ways to make a donation relational, and B) I’d much rather participate in a cultural joke than a cultural lie.  A gift card to Target is not a better gift than clean water for people who have none.  If someone is upset that you helped other people instead of buying them crap they don’t need and won’t remember, that’s their problem.  We could all use continual lessons in growing generosity.

If someone makes a donation for you, be grateful.  If you give a donation for someone, and they don’t appreciate it, explain why you did it.  Let people feel the weight of who you are.  Tell them about the charity, go to the website with them, and write a letter about how giving has changed you.  Don’t give in to the consumer lie.

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~ by Joe Paparone on November 18, 2010.

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