"You know that we are living in a material world and I am a material girl ...."
Material Girl ~ Madonna
Driving to work this morning, Lady Madonna was singing to me about raising interest (and not the variety from Citibank), boys and credit. As the Material Girl herself sang, I found myself thinking how dated this 1984 song sounds in these recessionary times.
Because (and maybe it's just the sorts of folks I associate with) but we've kind of moved beyond this sort of mentality, whether it has been by choice or by circumstance.
Or ... have we?
I kind of have to ask because after a day that included sorting food donations given to the organization I work for, I came home and -
Wait. I gotta interrupt and say something about the food donation situation. Just in case you happen to have a hankering to donate food to some worthy organization this holiday season, here's a little bit of a tip to keep in mind. It's generally appreciated by the organization - and the person receiving it - that the food donation not be something you bought to stock up for the apocalypse that wasn't Y2K. Seriously, we had to throw out grody-to-the-max cans that expired when we were all still partyin' like it was 1999. One of the folks sorting with us told a story about how a few years back at another organization, they received a food donation that included World War II rations. Just 'cause someone is a little down on his or her luck doesn't mean that they'd like to meet their maker as a result of botulism.
OK, sorry. As I was saying. So I came home after sorting the food and was reading the newspaper, when I saw this story about this family that is planning to dip into their retirement savings to afford Christmas gifts for their kids.
Who happen to be all of 10, 17 ... and 20 years old.
My first thought was something along the lines of what the hell, you have got to be frickin' kidding me. There are still people who think this way?
Apparently so. From the article:
This year, the Carrcroft couple plans to spend about half the $250 they normally spend on each of their three children, ages 20, 17 and 10.
But even that will be a stretch, Kelly said.
"We're going to charge everything. I'm going to hit my retirement fund," she said. "We'll worry after. We'll cry after Christmas."
This article - and this mentality - has me infuriated on so many levels. For starters, with the exception of the 10 year old, these are grown children who should be well past the age of expecting Santa Baby to slide down the chimney with a gold-plated AmEx card. What kind of lesson is this family setting for their kids? That Mommy and Daddy will always be there for them? Well, in that respect, they will be ... because they'll be destitute in their retirement and needing the kids to take care of them. And furthermore, haven't we learned from this recession (one that has seen the work hours cut of the mother in the article) that things don't matter?
This family isn't alone. Far from it. I know someone personally who just had a baby last Friday - and by yesterday (yesterday ... that was Tuesday!) took the baby for her first shopping spree at Neiman Marcus.
We're never going to move past this recession if this is the mentality people have. But I have to believe - because I have seen it firsthand with the organization I work for - that more people have a more restrained view of the holidays and of gifts in general. They're looking for opportunities to make a difference, to give back. The good thing is, there are countless of organizations this holiday season where you can "adopt-a-family" and give them needed items like clothes or food, or make a donation instead of gifts. There are events such as "alternative gift markets" where you can "shop" for gifts like supporting a village library in Indonesia, or to teach a child from the next block how to read.
If there's one thing we've learned from this recession, it's that life is not about who dies with the most toys.
It's that the toys themselves are going to be the death of us.
(photo taken by me at a very, very expensive boutique during a work event to raise money)