By Elise Schoening
When my supervisor approached our staff this week and asked if we would be interested in doing a Secret Santa, I was surprised to see one of my colleagues on the verge of tears.
“I don’t have the money,” she said. “I’m begging you guys — please can we do something else?”
The thick-rimmed glasses that framed her face couldn’t hide the tears that began to spill over. Finances were tight, she explained. Christmas was fast approaching, and she was expected to buy gifts for every member of her family, second cousins included. Simply put, she didn’t have the money to spare for Secret Santa.
So, we scrapped the idea of gift giving and settled on decorating each other’s clipboards instead. But as I walked out of our staff meeting that night, the moment stuck with me.
In the four months we had worked together, I had never seen my colleague cry. She was always bursting with positivity during tough times and was, without fail, the first person to step forward and lend a helping hand.
She had demonstrated time and time again that she cared for each member of the staff and didn’t need to buy us any gifts to prove it. Yet in American culture, materialism is often associated with meaning.
Every time a birthday or holiday rolls around, we break the bank buying gifts. But for many students at the College, bank accounts are already low. Between buying overpriced textbooks at the start of the semester and getting groceries each week, spare money can be scarce.
Perhaps it’s time to let go of the antiquated notion that the amount of money you spend on a person correlates to how much you care for them. Surely it is the memories we make, not the materials we give that truly matter.
I know I can’t remember half of the gifts I was given for Christmas last year, but ask me to name a fond memory for every friend and family member I received a gift from and I could talk for hours on end.
As the holiday season approaches, let’s remember to be grateful for the loved ones we have who have shown their affection for us all year long in ways that money can’t buy and time cannot erase.