Shoppers filled my line as I rang at the register. The day blew by between the fast pace and the rude customers I attempted to dodge. With each passing moment of forcing my smile, I found my face hurting more and more. Soon my eyes began to hurt from keeping them from rolling at the mean/rude/stupid customers. After a while I had to crawl my way away from a register and sit in the office for a few minutes to breath.
After each customer that wished me a merry Christmas, I felt like the well wish was more and more distant, as though Christmas was farther and farther away. Like it wasn’t going to ever really happen. When you work retail, it kind of gets like that. You don’t want to buy gifts for people. You don’t want to decorate. You don’t need another thing. You just want the freaking holiday over with.
My family decided last July to go on a family camping trip in lieu of gifts for Christmas. To give each other an experience instead of gift giving. Even still, I found myself having a hard time giving in to the habit of getting everyone a gift for Christmas. So I caved and got everyone something, but is year, I decided to challenge myself to “buy small” and only shop at local botiues and stores. Nothing owned by a big corporation. Small little gift shops that helped invest in my local community, and I made sure to get everyone a local product, like coffee roasted in my town, or an ornament that was specific to our community. Something that helped out the little guys.
Last year I had done something similar. Last year I had challenged myself to purchase exclusively charity items. Items from retailers that were specifically charity products, or items directly from the online stores of non-profit organizations. I attempted to do what I could to help some charities close to my heart, one of them being LINK (Liberty In North Korea), which is dedicated to helping refugees flee the tyrannical political climate of North Korea, and in some cases reuniting families in South Korea who had “defected” from North Korea.
I suppose I keep giving myself challenges not only to test my ability to find these kinds of thoughtful ways of giving, but because I desperately want Christmas to be meaningful for someone somewhere, even while I’m sick of the commercialism and meaninglessness that corporations give to the season. Even if people are just going to throw my gift away a few years down the road. Even while I know the items I’m giving are temporary, that the money to purchase them will have a lasting impact on my community, or in the life of someone seeking to start over after living through horrors. I refuse to let the frivolousness of the season continue to be frivolity. It must mean something, because life is too short to not give meaningful gifts.