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Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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    Recession Gift Ideas

    Christmas 2011 — Birth of a New Tradition

    by | Nov 6, 2011

    Ebeenzer ScroogeIn A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens confronts a terror- stricken Scrooge with a vision of a dark future of gloom, alienation, and a lonely death that no one grieves:

    ”Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed, ”I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart.”

    And as we all know, Dickens allows Scrooge to recognize his evil ways and to exchange his miserly and miserable life for one of love and care for his family and fellow men.

    In thinking of the upcoming holiday season–and we already see the commercialization and it’s not even Thanksgiving–we are reminded daily that far too many men and women are not going to work, families are losing their homes, children are going hungry, and the elderly have to decide whether to eat or pay for their expensive medicine.

    In our own period of uncertainty, need, and anxiety, how will we “celebrate” the season that is supposed to be one of love and peace. No matter what your religious belief, the Christmas season has always been one of celebration, good cheer, and gift giving.

    But with wallets thin and paychecks slim, perhaps we can find a new way this year to extend our hands to one another in practical and giving ways.

    In our own small manner, perhaps we can start by avoiding some of the tinsel that comes out of those giant factories in Asia that have already kicked into high gear to provide us with ever more merchandise we don’t really need to live a meaningful life. And as we know, this merchandise is being produced at the expense of American labor.

    This year can indeed be different. This year Americans can give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans.

    Before we start handing over our already burdened credit cards for toys and more bling, maybe those limited bucks would bring more joy and satisfaction if they were spent feeding and clothing needy folk in homeless shelters. If you’re short on cash, give some of your time. Collect groceries for the many food banks and visit the “No Kid Hungry” pledge page to ease hunger a bit in our own country. Help those hard-working and much maligned teachers by clicking on the “Donors Choose” program, the on-line charity allowing one to donate dollars for many classroom essentials that teachers dip into their own pockets to pay for themselves. So many good causes out there that are doing so much good but are also so underfunded.

    A friend of mine recently sent me an e-mail with many good suggestions which I am happy to share with you.

    Before we start, though, we first have to get over the nonsense that nothing of worth can be found that is produced by American hands. I think we all know that myth is simply not true. It’s time to think outside the proverbial gift box. Besides, who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, tucked in Chinese produced wrapping paper?

    Some suggestions:

    Everyone — yes everyone–gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local hair salon or barber?

    Gym membership? It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about general fitness and overall health.

    Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

    Are you one of those extravagant givers who thinks nothing of plunking down the big bucks on a Chinese-made flat-screen? Instead, how about something different. Perhaps that grateful person on your list would like his driveway sealed or plowed all winter. How about a cord of wood for a shut-it or lawn service for the summer. How about some outings at the local golf course. Besides, what’s the point of getting the latest HD TV with 300 cable TV channels when most of the programming is mindless drivel. Let’s get off our duffs which is good for the body and spirit and quit sitting around watching soaps and talking heads.

    And who doesn’t like to go out to eat once in a while. There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants — all offering gift certificates. And, if your main squeeze isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen early morning treats at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks, this isn’t about big National chains — this is about supporting your home-town American neighbors who have their financial lives on the line. You’ll be helping them keep their doors open.

    How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle done at a shop run by the American working guy?

    Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? I’m sure that special woman would love the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.

    Shop at your local thrift stores where the money they make is given to worthy local causes.

    In writing this, I’m reminded that my computer could use a tune-up, and I know I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

    OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.

    Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated places of entertainment and restaurants. And be sure to leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre. We musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

    And don’t forget to leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice big tip.

    Christmas can be an opportunity to encourage American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we can’t imagine.

    This can be the new American Christmas tradition. Put it on your Facebook page, forward it to everyone on your mailing list, post it to discussion groups, create a blog, and send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations and TV news departments. This is a revolution of caring about each other.

    Ebenezer Scrooge saw the light and did something about it. The rest of us can, too!

    ###
    David Evans

    David Evans

    Article by David Evans, who's retired from another life and lives in the mountains of West Virginia with his muse Jody along with one little and two big dogs and a diminishing pride of two cats and other critters who come along the path from time to time. The summer took its toll as we lost our "best boy" Hank, a noble Golden Retriever who passed into the Great Mystery on 10 June; Tucker, our "big pawed" orange tomcat who died on the operating table without a word of farewell having a tooth extracted, on 5 August; and most recently Sneezer, the black panther who never met a lap he didn't like, with calm and quiet resignation. David is the author of the recently published collection of essays entitled Tunes of Glory: The Ticking of the Heart. Earlier he published Cradle My Soul: Glimpses Into Other Lives, and Unscheduled Stops: Essays on Love, Loss and Other Roadside Attractions. All are available on either Amazon or Create Space, a subsidiary of Amazon. Proceeds are going to the Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary in Capon Bridge, West Virginia.

     

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    • Terri Evans

      David, we haven’t even finished eating our Halloween candy, so it’s hard to think about Christmas, but I’m so glad you have done so and that you’ve reminded us of the most joyous part of giving — actually helping. It reminds me of a one of my favorite quotes: “No man can help another without helping himself.” (Emerson)

      • David Evans

        Terri,

        Thank you. Great Emerson quote. Wish I had had it earlier. Very best.

    • mike williams

      A wonderful idea and antidote to the excesses of the season. Thanks for a great suggestion!

    • starke

      David, you put into words so beautifully what goes through my head this time of year! I posted it to my Facebook and sent it to community editor of the Staunton News Leader. Jean

    • David C

      Some good gift ideas here, but a glaring economic fallacy too. The claim that goods produced in other countries come “at the expense of American labor” is unsubstantiated and patently false. International trade benefits laborers in both countries. Always.

      New technology, trade, and outsourcing--these things do cause temporary unemployment while the factors of production are realigned with the new economic realities. In the long run, however, everyone’s standard of living is improved, including the displaced workers, who find new jobs where they are even more productive than before. There is a lot of evidence showing this is true--it’s actually one of the few things that economists everywhere can agree about.

      So don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for not “buying American”, and if there are any “extravagant givers” out there planning to buy me a “Chinese-made flat-screen”, I hope you won’t let this article dissuade you! :)

      • David Evans

        Hope you’re right, but a lot of the chronically unemployed might beg to disagree, especially with the dice loaded in favor of state-supported enterprises that we find in China. One recent example is the solar energy business. But thanks for reading and for donating to some school whose remaining teachers have to purchase a good deal of their own supplies. cheers

    • Neal

      HI David!

      Did you know that your post has become a viral chain email? Clearly your words have struck a chord with America. Congratulations and thank you!

    • Carolyn

      I plan to make this a Made in USA Christmas in 2011 and continue to buy products made in the USA in the new year whenever possible. Thanks, David, for the great ideas for giving Christmas gifts that are not made other countries.

      Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity in the United States. If consumers insist on buying products that are made in this country, manufacturers would move back to the USA to meet the demand for made in USA products made by USA workers. The American people can do this.

    • Cindy

      Thank you for these wise words. I’m forwarding to everyone on my list!

    • Nancy Grogan

      David:

      Your essay is tremendous! I have posted it in its entirety on my Facebook Notes page (https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150372216737183) with full attribution to you and this website. This dovetails so well with next Saturday’s (November 26) nationwide “Shop Small” campaign (http://www.smallbusinesssaturday.com/). I have also urged anyone else who finds it as resonating as I did to share/re-post.

      Thank you!

    • Celestial Elf

      Great Post. Thought you might like my version of A Christmas Carol

    • RLB

      David
      Thank you for your great article!

      I would like to point out to David C. who I hope has a job from a handicapped veteran who used to have a job in the failing newspaper industry as a freelance photographer who grew up in South Central PA the local of the famous Civil War battle of Gettysburg.

      One reason for the Rebs to invade into the north was because of the manufacture of a popular commodity “SHOES” and for years the community had a bustling manufacturing community of boot and shoe factories until the companies profits began to fall and the answer was MOVE to a place where we don’t have to pay even minimum wage!

      It has never revived!

      The county where I live was at one time called the “Apple Capital of the world” Now the companies that are now giant conglomerates buy a great deal of the apple concentrate used for juices and such from foreign markets.

      Migrant workers pick the crops and send their hard earned cash back to the home countries.

      It isn’t necessarily the amount of money one makes, but what one makes of his meager earnings! The low paid shoe factory worker sent their kids to school in clean clothes, and most were happy to have a job and make their own pathway in life
      when gas was 20 cents a gallon a loaf of wonder bread was 10 cents!

      NOW gas has added a mere 3.20 to that and folks WONDER will they have a loaf of bread on the table this Thanksgiving.

      David C Good luck in your tiny world of blind foolishness!

      “He is not poor that has little but he who desires much!
      Daniel

      SHOP LOCAL Help support your local yokels and make yourself feel loved!
      DB

    • Eliza at A Thread of Hope Guatemalan Fair Trade

      I would add that imported Fairly Traded crafts, coffee, chocolate, etc. are also excellent ethical gifts. These gifts help poor people in underdeveloped countries make a decent living. They can then send their children to school, have a good diet, and have no need to flee their country to come to the US in order to have a job so their families don’t go hungry. Building ethical trade relationships with people in other countries builds important bridges. Taking an interest in how others are doing around the world and choosing not to purchase items likely made under sweatshop conditions is something I can totally support. Walmart and others don’t particularly care how the workers who make the items they sell are faring. Fair Traders are concerned about that. In fact, it is their motivation to be in business. Let’s not lump ALL international trade together, but instead distinguish between trade under Free Trade conditions and trade under FAIR TRADE conditions. There is a world of difference. Check out websites for the Fair Trade Federation and for Equal Exchange for more information.

    • Humbug

      What a load of old tripe.

    • Cade M

      I normally would not chime in on these things, but I want to point out a few fallacies with this concept. First, what about all the Retail jobs this community supports? Notice that there is not a single idea for buying from your local retailer. Second, regardless of WHERE a product is made, an average of 50% of the total spent on an item at a LOCAL retailer stays in the community (vs. a national chain that is more around 18%). The line that states “When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community” is a complete falsehood. It assumes no markup, no profit margin, it assumes that retailer is not employing any people, paying any rent, collecting any taxes…does that sound like any business you know? I didn’t think so.

      Supporting the service industry is a great idea, and some of these non-traditional gifts are an excellent way to support local merchants that might not see a normal “holiday bump”, however it is irresponsible to vilify your local merchants because the jacket or string of lights they sell might be made in Malaysia or Vietnam. WHERE you buy is far more important than WHAT you buy (or where it’s made). Shop local, either retail or service, and watch our community grow.

      • David Evans

        As I understand the puzzle, retail jobs are the product (no pun) usually of goods producing jobs, not the other way around. Retail pays shitty wages with poor benefits, while manufacturing pays wells with good benefits (mostly b/c of unions). Most retail these days is driven by volume. According to 2007 economic census, labor costs represent about 9% of total retail sales -- so i think the 50% is total bunk.

        • Cade M

          I’m sure you do, because just like any other Liberal there is a built in assumption that only the wage-earner matters. But many retailers, especially in a small community like mine, are owned by small families that work the business themselves. Their entire living is made off of the business income. Then they take that 50% (which is called margin, or markup, in case you have never worked for a business before) and use it to pay rent to a local landlord, pay their employees if they have any, take out ads in the local paper, join the local Chamber of Commerce, buy groceries, and on and on. THAT is how the 50% stays in the community. Maybe their employees end up with 9%, but the Community ends up circulating that 50% over and over.

          • David Evans

            I’m always amused by those who like to call names, especially when they enjoy using the word Liberal in a derisive way Have a long and happy life…

            • Cade Maestas

              Maybe I painted with too broad a brush with the “Liberal” comment, and for that I apologize. But the math is accurate. The fact is that owners of small retail businesses rely on the Holidays to sustain their yearly survival, and that communities rely on these retailers, their jobs, their sales tax collection, and their local spending to thrive. To encourage people to avoid purchasing from these job creators is irresponsible and very small-picture thinking.

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