On the list of posts that I meant to write before all heck broke loose was one about giving back for the holidays. I write about this every year, and every year I learn something new. This goes back a long way for me, before I had the money to contribute much directly I would always be the office volunteer that organized, collected money and shopped. One year I even hand knit a pair of mittens (the mom in the family requested wool mittens, which are hard to find store made) which is something I have yet to even do for myself. Doing it makes me feel good and warm and fuzzy, and three years ago it made the difference between me enjoying the holidays and absolutely losing my shit with my in-laws.
Nothing shows off the differences in families when two families are joined in marriage like the holidays. Holidays have always been relatively sparse in my family. Usually because of the money, but even when there was more money it was all about doing something smaller, but really meaningful. There were no long lists of gift requests, just one or two things you really really wanted. Almost always there were hand made gifts, usually from my grandmothers, and later I was the one knitting or sewing something for someone else.
My husband’s family could not be more different, and from the very beginning it made me wildly uncomfortable. Christmas had long been my favorite time of year, and it was replaced by dread and guilt. I would cry at the discomfort of feeling the need to reciprocate the volume from them while still dealing with my family that could barely afford to do small gifts.
So, three years ago, the first time in almost 8 years that I’d actually had a sizable bonus, with an eight month old baby, I decided to go beyond just organizing and donating and shopping for the families that our department adopted, and actually adopt one myself. I went with the same organization that our company does, because I was familiar with what they asked for and they are in my neighborhood. Something that means a lot to me.
I always adopt a two person family, just a mom and a kid. It is what I can afford and it feels special to me. For the past two years, since M has been old enough to participate with me, I’ve asked for a kid around her age. She helps me shop for the fun toys and I get to use the opportunity to explain to her why it is important to give to others.
It has balanced out any guilt or weird feelings that I have about dealing with my in-laws. It is tax deductible (though really I would do it even if it wasn’t), and it allows me to teach M about giving back, not just receiving. We may not be able to do it next year, with another kid and possibly less income, but as long as we can do it, I know we will.
If you are local, the organization that I go to is St. Anne’s Place. It is a homeless shelter for women and their children. It provides not just a place to live, but also support for women while they are in the shelter, and after they move out. The families that are adopted are women who have graduated from the shelter and are living on their own, working, but don’t make enough extra money for things like Christmas gifts. This year, more than any I remember, there have been more requests for socks and underwear. A sign that seems to show me that the economy is not recovering for everyone. While their holiday giving program is over, they are always looking for donations to the shelter itself. Socks, underwear, slippers, diapers and personal items.