I’m getting ready to resign, sell up and move on. This morning four neighbours held a lawn sale together. A last minute decision, I only had time to grab a couple of things and dash over the road. Three hours later I walked away with $10 profit. We are planning another more organised effort sometime soon. Back at home I advertised the unsold items online and have already made another $100.
Hanging around in my friend’s front garden this morning, as potential customers fossicked through our displays of unwanted books, clothes, kitchen wares, tools, plants and toys, there was plenty of time to observe and muse on our culture and lifestyle. Quite a few items had been bought or given as gifts and never been removed from their packaging. Other things were used but almost-new and many others were clearly well used but in good condition. We entertained ourselves discussing and laughing at the gaudy and senseless paraphernalia some of us had been storing for years before finally deciding to let it go. We met couples looking for specific items, families on their routine weekly bargain hunt with children on $2 budgets, people looking for Christmas presents and others just browsing. It was an easy, relaxed morning and anything that didn’t sell was packed up and put away again, in wait of the next planned sale.
It’s hard not to compare this lifestyle of excess and comfort with the lives of people elsewhere. It’s also an effort sometimes, not to be the boring spoilsport always turning fun and frivolity into a comparison with the deprived. My workplace are organising our Secret Santa in preparation for our Christmas party in a month’s time and I know that we will all spend our money on things likely to turn up in unopened boxes on picnic tables in the driveways of future lawn salers. But I don’t feel it’s appropriate to suggest, every time we spend money on tokenism, to suggest doing something with more positive impact on the world. The well fed, well housed don’t want to be reminded all the time of the unfed, unhoused. I appreciate this “fatigue of the privileged” because I experience it too.
In preparation for the festive season, as one example of many, Care Australia have produced a whole booklet of Gifts that change lives, separated into chapters such as Animal Lovers, Students and Teachers, Green Thumbs, Health Nuts, and Families. You can purchase a pig, goat or chicken to help a family’s livelihood; send a girl to school; buy drought resistant seeds or a beehive for a farmer; buy a bicycle for a visiting health worker or put a village volunteer through training; buy a water pump for a community and so many other extremely worthwhile contributions to the world beyond our own. For more information go to Care Gifts Online
Last year I purchased supplies for an Afghan girl to attend school for a year via Mahboba’s Promise “Gifts That Give”. I wrapped it as a gift and added it to our Secret Santa basket. I had only been home six weeks and a few days later my insecurities about seeming like an evangelist got the better of me. I bought a Christmas tree decoration and exchanged it for the school supplies. The Afghan girl still got her gift. The Australian colleague got a pretty bauble. Yet I really feel that Australians would get far more joy out of knowing they’d helped someone, over owning a piece of bling. I’d love to see this form of giving overtake the commercialised, superfluous giving that now dominates Christmas.