Love over stuff

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My niece playing with my daughter’s Christmas shoes, 2010

Last year, my brothers and I decided to exchange names for Christmas, like we’ve done for the past several years. But this time, we agreed to try to purchase a gift that would benefit someone else. It wasn’t always easy to find just the right thing for some people within our fairly limited price point, but I really loved it when everyone opened their gifts. The giver would tell us all of the company, or the artisan, or the group of people who were supported with that purchase.

My sister-in-law bought me a Rwandan basket and my husband got a scarf from my brother.  We were working with a fairly limited number of websites we knew about, but over the past year I’ve heard about more and more companies that create and sell products for the purpose of giving people in need a living wage, or providing funding for a worthy social justice cause.

Last year for our own little family Christmas celebration, I wanted one more gift for my then-four-year-old son (to make it fair with his sister), and I found myself wandering the aisles of Target. It was last-minute and I was out of options. I got stuck in the bargain aisle filled with available-at-Christmas-only toys, and I kept coming back to a certain construction set. There were 80 (80!) total pieces for only! twenty! dollars! It did look like pretty cheap plastic, but I thought wow — it has a dump truck AND a loader AND a cement mixer AND a bunch of worker dudes and caution cones and look! It’s even got a remote control semi. There were so many items on his list included in one package, which is why the price point gave me pause — it probably shouldn’t be that cheap, I thought. But I needed a gift and I was out of time, so I went for it.

Guess how long he played with it before it broke?

You know these toys, because maybe you’ve purchased them yourself, or your kids have gotten them from someone else. They are EVERYwhere during the Christmas buying frenzy. Some pieces were broken the same day he opened them. Over this last year, I keep throwing pieces of the set away, broken or unusable. The doors fell off. The hitch busted. The remote control semi went way too fast and was basically unusable from the start, but I had to wait until the bumper broke and the front wheels fell off and got lost before I could toss it.

That’s not what I want to do this year.

Though I’m a social justice novice, I know that it feels good to spend our money on things of eternal significance rather than at the bargain-basement aisle at Target, filled with toys that will fall apart in about a week. No more! This year, I’m going for quality over quantity, value over price and love over stuff.

Check back here in the next couple of days for my own compilation of links to companies, web pages, shopping sites and handmade gifts that benefit someone in need, help fund an adoption, give a living wage to an artisan or help lift someone out of poverty. See you soon!

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