I've also been re-reading a piece about the holidays that filmmaker Gene Deitch (creator of the wonderful "Tom Terrific" cartoons) posted a few weeks ago on his Roll The Credits blog. Gene is dead-on about the topic of moving the modern holiday gift-giving rituals away from the mindless consumerism so well described by the thoughtful, against-the-grain protagonist of A Charlie Brown Christmas and towards a more enlightened approach.
The memory of my local hardware store's "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS" sign fresh in my memory, I shall paraphrase (with some revisions - once a professional editor, always a professional editor) Gene's piece.
I'm Dreaming of a RIGHT Christmas!
In these difficult times, when we seem to be helpless to do anything meaningful to make things better, I received one simple idea from a friend and put it into my own words to send to my contacts.
As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous mountains of cheaply produced goods - merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American workers.
This year could be different. This year Americans can give a gift of genuine concern for other Americans.
No excuse that there’s nothing to buy that is produced by American hands. There is!
It's time to think outside the box.
Yeah, maybe many would like a flat-screen TV, but they also may be just as thrilled to have their driveway repaved, or lawn mowed and garden groomed for a year, or driveway plowed during the winter.
How about . . .
- Free games at a local golf course.
- Gift certificates from your local hair salon or barber for one or more trims.
- A gym membership - it's great for all ages thinking about health improvement (Note: if you reside in the more metropolitan parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, there are small "mom and pop" neighborhood gyms to support).
- A car tune-up? Small, American garages should be happy to sell service gift certificates. . . and also for maybe a year of car washes! How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by an American working guy?
- See a play or ballet at your hometown theatre.
- Musicians need work, too, so find places showcasing local bands, and venues who could provide all-expense gift evenings.
- There are still plenty of owner-run restaurants -- offering gift certificates. Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. Avoid the big national chains.
- Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day each week or month.
- There are surely plenty of computer firms who’d be happy to contract for a year, keeping you online and your hard disk humming.
- There are many local crafts people who can make pots, make jewelry, spin their own wool, and knit them into sweaters and scarves.
This is about supporting your home town people with their financial lives on the line, trying to keep their doors open. Isn’t that what Christmas should be about?
Christmas is now about caring about us, encouraging American small businesses to keep going.
And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine.
If we all could do this, we could have an effect, and make a social statement without having to march and camp in the streets: a painless but effective statement about how we think about the spirit of Christmas gift-giving, and about caring for each other.
THIS should be the new American Christmas tradition!
If you have any bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.