Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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“Buy Something Day” Latest Project for Sun Columnist  

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, December 23 / 13

Zack Gross

I was excited, a few weeks ago, to see my column on Buy Nothing Day spark some debate.  Considering me to be a Communist tree-hugger who will bring down the Capitalist System just gives me way too much credit!  But, in order to bring a more balanced approach to my writing, I have decided to focus this column on my new project:  Buy Something Day!

December 23rd is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year, as men in particular get their last-minute holiday gifts for loved ones, pals and office mates.  My own experience, managing the Worldly Goods store that was once part of Brandon's Marquis Project, was that during the last few days before Christmas many folks would buy almost anything in order to have gifts for others under the tree!

The challenges that late shoppers run into include that what they had originally thought about buying is now all sold out, or that the on-line purchase they want to make will not be delivered until the New Year.  Somehow, a card saying “your gift is on the way” can be devastating for some people, especially children!

Anyway, here is my list for today, December 23rd and for the few hours left tomorrow, Christmas Eve, before the stores close.  Some of these are actually tangible, others do connect to things like tree-hugging, and then there's “peace.”

This year, our family has declared the holidays to be “Booksmas.”  When our National Hockey League team returned to Manitoba, we gave appropriate logo gifts to everyone – hoodies, socks, toques, gloves, even tree ornaments – as we celebrated “Jetsmas.”  So, include at least one book to each person you are gifting this year!  For people who travel a lot and don't want to be carrying books, you can give them an e-reader.

The holidays are a time of sentimentality and remembrance.  So, what would be more appropriate than a calendar with photos of your loved ones – graduating, standing on the beach, getting married, or just plain goofing around?  If you aren't a calendar person, what about a photo mug, towel or cake?

Some people think that gift cards, like mini-vans and decaffeinated coffee, are the work of the devil.  But, I'm a fan!  For that person who won't like what you buy them no matter what it is, give them a gift card or gift credit card, and let them get their own present.  If times are tough, maybe they just need groceries.  You've given them the power of choice.

Some people really do have everything.  But maybe there is a cause that they support and you can contribute to it in their name (and get a tax receipt too!).  I was visiting the local high school the other day and the office secretary proudly showed me a certificate she'd received for purchasing a quantity of trees to be planted in a former rainforested area in her mother's name.  Tree-hugger indeed!

As I creep closer to my senior years (65 in the spring!), and as my wife and I stay very busy while losing some of the energy and strength that we once had, more and more I appreciate people taking on chores or making meals on our behalf.  Put an envelope under the tree pledging to make a meal per month for a loved one, or to shovel the walk ten times over the winter or whatever you think would be most welcome.  A friend of mine handed these envelopes out to his whole family, pledging a certain number of hours to each person to help with any daunting chores.

For us, as our kids have all grown up and moved away, the gift of visiting time is the best offer.  Our children have planned out a time in 2014 where we will all travel together, the family trip of a lifetime.  But even time together at home is sacred, to see where they are in their lives and to get to know each other again.  Grandchildren make that experience all the more exciting!

And, finally, as promised, “peace.”  The CBC 22 Minutes TV holiday special had a memorable piece on how people forced to be alone at Christmas can still vicariously enjoy the family visits they are missing.  It is a disc you put in your player that simulates the arguments, tensions and epithets that sadly often take place when family gets together.  The comedian in the show just sat there smiling while phrases like “You know what's wrong with you...!?”  and “I thought you were going to be a lawyer”! (doctor, dentist, choose one) were hurled at him.

So, as you take some time during the Holiday Season, I wish you peace.  That is something that you can't buy!

Zack Gross works for the 
Manitoba Council for International Co-operation (MCIC), a coalition of more than 40 international development organizations.

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