New Castle News

Lisa Madras

November 26, 2012

Lisa Madras: Your Christmas presence, not presents, can be the greatest gift

NEW CASTLE — What can money not buy?

This seems like such a simple question, and one we've heard the answer to in countless songs and movies and random quotations: "Money can't buy happiness."

The smart-alec response is that money can't buy happiness, but it can buy cupcakes and bicycles and sports cars — and that's close enough.  There is some truth to that, because I certainly won't deny that I'm a lot happier with a cupcake in my hand than I am without. But we've also heard countless stories of individuals who have all the money in the world but lead a miserable existence.  

I thought it would be the perfect time to bring up this question since we’ve all just celebrated Thanksgiving, a holiday that is in very real danger of being flattened into roadkill by Christmas' earlier and earlier descent.  

I'm not going to go into a long, boring diatribe about the true meaning of Christmas. We've all heard that sermon, and if you're a believer, you believe, and if you're not, you don't ... that's your personal choice. But for believers and non-believers alike, the materialism and "must-buy-it-now!" of Christmas is almost enough to make you want to call the whole thing off.

Christmas decorations are now smashed into the same aisles as Halloween costumes and black Friday sales start before the turkey is even out of the oven on Thanksgiving Day.  

It's utterly ridiculous.

I have an ex-boyfriend who starts working himself into a bad mood over Christmas every single year around the middle of October. He says he has more people to buy for than he has money, and he can hardly say the word Christmas without choking on his own bile. He works in retail, so I guess he gets to see the worst of humanity at this time of year, but I still say Christmas is exactly what you make it, and personally, I'll be darned if other people's materialism has one cotton-pickin' thing to do with MY Christmas.

The said ex and I had a row last year because he unceremoniously announced that he hoped I wasn't getting him a gift because he wasn't getting me one. I'm sure I wouldn't have reacted as badly as I did if it had been approached a tad more kindly, but as it was, I was hurt and angry, and my ex was gloriously triumphant in this "proof" that I was all about the material goods.

In my estimation, a gift doesn't have to be something that is bought with money, and I told him as much. Many, many things in this world are true gifts, and only a very few of those come in physical form with a return receipt attached. Unfortunately, there are people in this world who will never understand that concept, and if you're one of the unlucky people to get steamrolled by their indignant convictions, you're in real trouble.

You're gonna end up having your feelings shoveled off the side of the highway by the guy in the PennDOT truck right alongside the-holiday-formerly-known-as-Thanksgiving.

The thing is, what's important about Christmas is different to all of us. But you wouldn't let a television advertisement influence your beliefs on your religion or your political views, would you? So why do so many people allow that to happen when it comes to the importance of Christmas?

I'm not trying to tell anyone to not buy gifts for your loved ones. If you have the money, do it. I certainly will, and I'm not going to be a hypocrite about it. I love giving Christmas presents, and I'm not gonna lie ... I love getting them, too!

But for me, it's not about the price tag. It's about letting someone know that they're special enough to deserve a little thought and effort.

That being said:

Money cannot buy me an extended family to celebrate with. It will not light up my home with good-natured sibling rivalries and the sounds of my children laughing with cousins and sitting on the laps of grandparents. It will not tell me that there is a man who loves me above any other woman, nor will it cuddle with me under an afghan and watch the children play with their new goodies.

It won't cook with me, and clean up with me, and laugh over the gravy spilled on the tablecloth. It will never, not even once, take my hand and tell me, "This is a special day, and I'm thankful to celebrate it with you."

You see, these are the things that the materialistic of the world take for granted. If these people had no one to love, no families to visit, the last thing on their minds would be how much of a financial burden Christmas is to them. They are the charmed ones, because they have the only thing that some of us wish for, with or with the exchange of pricey presents.

I'm blessed beyond measure that I have two incredible little angels to be with on the holidays, even if it hurts my heart that I can't offer them any more family than myself. I am not alone, and neither are they. But there are many people in this world, in this very community, for which Christmas brings only the sting of loneliness and the heartache of knowing that no one cared enough to think of them on this most sacred of days.

I implore you, the disheartened and jaded: Find these people. Find them, and give them a gift that money can't buy.


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Lisa Madras
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