Of course, the same pitfalls of consumerism remain, and I still break out Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping to expel the demons of capitalism from my holiday celebration. This holiday ought to be about more than buying boatloads of cheap shit. We still buy gifts for each other in my family, but we try to keep it pretty low-key and humble.
There are gifts that can be given much more valuable than anything that can be boxed and wrapped. They are the gifts I am trying to give out more often during the Christmas season. Today I was reminded of one of the best.
Every year the college counseling office at my school throws a little after-school party for all the people who wrote letters of recommendation for our students. This year was actually a personal record for me, with 27. For the first time that also made the teacher at the school who wrote the most letters. The counselors gave me recognition and a nice bottle of wine, but there's a much richer gift waiting for me. Sitting on the table right now is a stack of envelopes full of appreciations from my students. I am hesitating to open them because they never fail to hit me straight in the heart.
If you are looking to give a gift this holiday season that's not ordered on Amazon, give the people in your life the gift of appreciation. It is a precious thing we get so rarely in our society. Bosses treat workers like expendable commodities who should feel lucky just to have a job. Service workers deal with asshole customers on a constant basis. Teachers often leave a pint of blood in class every day with little to no encouragement from their overlords or their students. These times are really bad, and we all need to be taking care of each other. A little appreciation goes a long, long way.