by Barbara D'Amato
The holidays are right around the corner, and so is your Aunt Martha with her annual gift of Turkish paste and Cousin Dan with his annual subscription to A Guy’s Basement Workshop. Plus you feel a need to head out and buy presents that you know may turn out not to be the right size or the right thing. And work on your smile of delight at the Turkish paste.
I have the solution. No more re-gifting. No more fruitcake.
Find a family in need. One year a friend in North Carolina told me about a family whose possessions had been wiped away by a hurricane. Another year a Chicago cop found me a family whose wage-earner had died and whose oldest child had medical problems. Your minister, priest, or rabbi may know of such a family. Or with two degrees of separation, I guarantee you can find one.
NOTE: Make sure the family’s permission has been obtained.
Find out the composition of the family, and the gender and ages of the children.
VERY IMPORTANT: If there are children involved, get an alternative address to which the presents can be sent. I don’t think you should ever give out addresses of children. There are just too many creeps in the world. But a neighbor, grandparent, or church contact works well.
Inform all the people who give you gifts that you want gifts sent to the needy family instead of you. Tell them you will be very, very, extremely upset if they give you a gift instead.
Good gifts include:
Towels. Everybody has old towels. New towels just aren’t a priority when you are in dire need. And new, fluffy towels are a great comfort.
Luxury items. It sounds strange to give luxuries to a family that needs essentials, but luxuries are the first things that disappear in a crisis. Chocolates and holiday cookies are very appreciated. Alcohol isn’t so good
Children’s toys. It depends on the age, of course. Dolls, balls, checkers, or dominoes, catcher’s mitts. Crayons, art paper, knitting equipment and yarn, paints, markers, coloring books and so on are good. Books of course. And nobody ever has enough Legos.
Tell your friends to send the gifts, but not their name. Keep it anonymous. That way there are no comebacks and you have no fear that somebody in the giftee family is going to turn up later for a handout.
I don’t know where the petrified fruitcake that has been making the rounds for thirty years will go, but this year it won’t be your house.