Goodwill sounds good this Christmas

By Kaitlin Sweeney

W ith the November 26th news coverage of the elderly lying prone, covered in footprints at the local Wal-Mart, one must begin to wonder, “Are there any ipods left?”

I mean… “Has an annual celebration of goodwill transformed into a country-wide capitalistic deathmatch?”

The trend of taking up arms for alms, lobbing grenades for goodies and backhanding grandmas for the blue-light giveaways is upsetting, but nonetheless has taken hold in the American lifestyle. These practices make social psychologists cry at the same time they make economists skip like schoolgirls. It represents a shift in American culture: the prizing of buying the newest and best gift over goodwill for everyone.

The act of giving gifts for holidays has long been a tradition. In the last few decades, however, the gifts have become more and more elaborate, such as ipods, digital cameras, expensive clothes and other pricey gifts. And consumers eagerly snap up said gifts, all in the name of holiday cheer.

The media can also make things worse by focusing on the stores instead of those that cannot afford to shop at them. For example, how many times in the past few weeks have we heard about this supposed “War on Christmas”? Certain news commentators would have you believe that the use of “Happy Holidays” is akin to the destruction of the religious holiday.

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Obviously, this is arguable. Christmas is not gone from society; it is still being celebrated in many homes across the country. As a Catholic, the moves that stores make to become more inclusive do not detract from my enjoyment of the holiday. The news coverage of this “war” does however. By focusing once again on what the stores are doing, we lose sight of the bigger picture, that as citizens and human beings, we should be helping those that are less fortunate.

12.1% of the country lives below the poverty level, according to the 2002 U.S. Census. For these Americans, the holidays are not a given. They have to rely on the goodwill of others. That’s where you and I step in. Instead of spending all of our money on the newest electronic thing, we need to defer some of our funds to those that need them most.

That is not to say that spending money on ourselves and loved ones is wrong; it is not, but it should not become necessary to expect a list of casualties following Black Friday each year. Instead, let us take a moment to breathe, reconsider body slamming that mother of four to get the last Dora’s Talking Kitchen, and pop some leftover change into the red Salvation Army bucket.

Purchase new toys for children whose parents cannot afford them. Give canned and boxed goods to the local food drive. Donate money to charities that purchase holiday decorations for less fortunate families. Be sure to choose charities where your money actually goes to the cause and is not diverted to cover administrative costs.

If you feel strapped for cash, remember that money is not everything. Many charities would gladly take volunteers. All of those donated gifts have to be distributed after all. Take time out of your schedule this busy holiday season and volunteer at local shelters, like the Salvation Army, or at soup kitchens.

We can never fully break from the pattern of desiring gifts because of the nature of our capitalist system, but we can practice restraint. By all means, we should celebrate, give gifts to each other and be merry. However, we should not worry if little Johnny gets the latest, coolest toy. We should worry, however, if the family on the other side of town has enough to eat. So remember what is really important and give this holiday season. And please, no trampling grandma.

Kaitlin Sweeney is a sophomore in LAS. She is the Supplements Editor and can be reached at [email protected].