We’re More Than Consumers

The wonderful thing about this time of year is whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus, there is a spirit that ties all of these holidays together. Fundamentally, this time of year is about giving.

Unfortunately, Madison Avenue advertising firms have convinced us that during the holidays “shopping” is a synonym for “giving.” If you’re like me, our holiday season will be a time of buying pointless kitchen gadgets and power tools that soon will be sitting on a shelf gathering dust.

Sadly, the Thanksgiving to Christmas holiday season has largely become a time to shop. Just look at all the special “days” over the last week.

It began with Black Friday. Unless you live under a rock, you know that Black Friday is that infamous day of shopping during which big box retail stores entice us with the promise of blockbuster deals. Black Friday has grown into such a retail phenomenon that it now infringes on Thanksgiving itself. Countless stores are open part or all of our national day of thanks.

That was followed by Small Business Saturday. If Black Friday is all about the mega-retailers, Small Business Saturday is when the little guys fight back. Small Business Saturday is the day when small, locally owned retailers bind together to remind us that they’re a great Christmas shopping option as well. They remind us that when buy local, we’re keeping more of our dollars in our local communities.

It continued with Cyber Monday. As Americans are doing more of their shopping online, the virtual retail world had to get in on the holiday action. Cyber Monday is when online vendors offer their best deals in the hope that you’ll be tempted to send some of your holiday shopping dollars their way as well.

Cyber Monday has been so successful that many companies turned it into a whole week of online shopping. Thus was born Cyber Week.

There’s been a heck of a lot of shopping going on over these last few days.

It’s not supposed to be like this. We’re supposed to be giving back not only to our own families, but also to help our less fortunate brothers and sisters. We’re supposed to be sharing of our time and our resources with something bigger than ourselves. Yet with all the aggressive advertising that surrounds us, giving back to those in need has become secondary to the drive to find the next doorbuster shopping deal.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We’re more than just consumers looking for the next deal. We’re a giving and caring community – and nation – and sometimes we just need a little reminder of who we really are.

That’s why the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has been christened Giving Tuesday.

In the middle of one of the busiest shopping weeks of the year, it’s a gentle reminder that while we should take joy in buying gifts for our loved ones, we must remember that there are those in the community whose Christmas will not be so merry. Let’s all take some time to celebrate how blessed we truly are. Then consider that there are too many of our neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet.

Join the Giving Tuesday movement and give back to the charity or cause that most inspires you.

Yes, I know Giving Tuesday was technically on Dec. 2, but my column in the Peninsula Pulse is published on the first Friday of every month. Giving Tuesday may have passed, but the spirit is still worthy.

In Door County, you can support a wide range of human service charities through a gift to the United Way. Or you can give to the arts, environment, education, children and youth, historic preservation, women’s issues, and/or health and human needs through the many Funds of the Door County Community Foundation.

If these options aren’t right for you, visit GiveDoorCounty.org for a list of more than 360 charities working hard to provide us with this wonderful quality of life in Door County. Whatever issue you care about most, there almost certainly is a local charity that will both touch your heart and use your gifts in an impactful way.

If you don’t have much money to spare, consider giving of your time. The Volunteer Center has a database of volunteer opportunities for individuals and whole families. Search the listings at VolunteerCenterDoorCounty.com.

In the middle of this shopping season, celebrate the spirit of Giving Tuesday. Find the charity or cause that’s right for you. Then give. Right now. Just do it. It’s what this time of year is truly about.

Unless you celebrate Festivus. In that case, let the airing of the grievances begin.

This column by Bret Bicoy originally appeared in the Peninsula Pulse on December 3, 2014.

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