Sunday, 7 December 2014

It's The Gift

I saw an ad on Facebook for the Rich Dad-Poor Dad seminar. That guy in the advertisement certainly looks nothing on earth like my Dad looked. The man in the ad has a plastered on smile with perfect teeth, trending clothing, not a wrinkle of care on his face. He is clearly the product of a well thought out advertising department somewhere.

When I was a kid, my Dad was usually in work clothes, his dirt covered hands patched with scabs from where he had cut them while working. He had the look of a man who worked hard, and lived hard. There was no richness in the household of a labourer. Even when he dressed up, he looked bent and hard. He smiled, and he laughed too, but it sure didn't look like that guy in the ad.

Being rich is a need that is thrust upon us these days. Our consumerist society makes it all important, that we acquire wealth aplenty, that we teach our children to do the same. Advertising agencies and the corporate consumer machine constantly blast us with artificial images of happiness based on acquisition. We are taught by the consumption machine around us to want, to need, more and more.

Today I am going out into the annual orgy of shopping that we loosely based on a Christian story about Jesus, a story we see in many religions, a story of birth, sacrifice and re-birth. This theme arises in ancient religions as well as modern ones. The Christians have had the good fortune to be borne into an era with better communications and marketing departments, plus bigger armies.

So out I go, facing the maddened throngs, looking for that perfect gift for my children and grandchildren, for my Mom and Ray, for friends and family alike. Out I go into the world of over-priced toys that will break in a few weeks, clothing made by child labourers in the Third World, knick-knacks and oddities that lose all their value the first time they are used. Within all of this mess, I am going to try to find things that a fun, meaningful, lasting.

I think the only truly lasting gift I can give to those around me is to tell them that I love them, to tell them how much their care and support means to me, how much having them in my life makes it worth living. It costs me nothing to do this; I need to do it more often. Sure, I will buy things that will pass away, as we all will. What I want them to remember is not the gift, but the giver. That's a lesson I learned from a radical, pacifist teacher, a poor man from the Middle East, a carpenter. It's the gift, not the giver, that makes all the difference.

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