Friday, December 9, 2011

The Quest for Meaningful Gifts

After spending months cleaning out cupboards and sorting out stuff....I've come to see possessions in a whole new light.

You know what I think? A few of our possessions are necessary, a few make us happy, but the vast majority just weigh us down. They fill up cupboards, cover benchtops, and clutter the floor...

The experience of packing up all our worldly possessions, and realising that most of the stuff that filled up my home was unnecessary has broken a mental shackle for me. The act of walking through a mall, and feeling no desire to buy anything has been a new, and rather surreal experience.

Actually, I've started to find it quite distasteful. All that stuff! All that money spent...all that mindless consuming....for what purpose?? Perhaps my mind has already started to prepare itself for life surrounded by poverty.

Anyway, it's got me thinking about gifts. How can you ensure that you give (and recieve) gifts that will actually enhance a person's life, or be a positive thing for the world we all share - as opposed to one more thing that will clutter up the cupboards?

When my older brother reached 30, he declared that he was done with birthdays and presents. I ignored him, and continued to buy him a present each year, because it felt too awful not to. Fancy not buying your own brother a birthday gift?!?!

But now I'm about to turn 30, I think I'll declare the same. (I'll probably be ignored too...).

Or the other alternative which I quite like, is that each year I could choose a cause that I believe in, and ask that anyone who wants to give a gift, give a donation to the cause instead. That way I get the joy of picking something that I feel strongly about, and the giver has the satisfaction of knowing they've given something, and helped a good cause at the same time.

Recently I watched "Running To America" and absolutely loved it. Did anyone else see it? The story of Rob De Castella who went into outback Northern Territory to find young indigenous men and women to train to run the New York Marathon. His thinking was that these young people would not only encourage others to live a healthy, active lifestyle, but they would inspire others in their communities to believe that if they tried hard enough, they could achieve anything.

Despite tremendous challenges and against the odds, all four young men not only made it to New York, but they all crossed the finish line of the New York Marathon. Had me in tears! I've since heard that, this year, they sent 11 runners to New York, and all of them finished the marathon, and many have gone on to organise fun runs in their own communities, and become mentors to other young people.

(If you'd like to learn more about the Indigenous Marathon Project, you can check out their site here:

Makes me realise that there are so many projects out there, making a real difference in people's lives, without government funding or media fanfare (often funded out of the pocket of one person who believes passionately in what they're doing) that would really benefit from our help.

So, if you are going to be spending the weekend at the mall, along with a gerzillion other people, trying to find the perfect gift for someone....would you consider giving some money to a good cause on their behalf?

Or at least a gift that has been ethically and responsibly made. Like a basket of organic, locally-grown produce?

Or a gift that will inspire. Like a good book? I highly recommend a book called "Life Is So Good" by George Dawson. A beautiful memoir of a man who was the son of black slaves, and experienced poverty and racism, yet always maintained a wonderful attitude. He did not learn to read until he was 98, and decided to write his life story at age 101.

Our world really doesn't need more cheap plastic (unecessary) things imported from faraway places, where the worker has probably been paid pittance for their troubles, and the local environment poisoned with toxins and chemicals in the process. Think about the world you want to leave your children...

Wouldn't a fairer, less poisoned world be the greatest gift of all...?

"We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children" (American Indian Proverb)

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