Redirected generosity | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Friend Cleo has announced she’s not giving Christmas gifts to friends this season. It’s certainly not because of financial problems or any lack of Christmas spirit.

She and her husband are moving out of their big house into a condo looking out on a beautiful park and right next to their club, and not too far from their doctors at MakatiMed. It’s an obviously wise, efficient and practical decision.

She said she decided, “Enough na!”

While packing up, she discovered a closet full of unopened Christmas gifts from friends. She could have recycled them without anyone knowing or remembering, but not my friend Cleo. She stashed them away unopened, well, because she had a closet for them. Me, lacking the space, I either recycled or gave them away sans guilt.

Solved by sharing

Anyway, her notice did not arrive early enough; I had already sent her our token gift of cheese-based cookies from a recent Japanese cruise. In a few days a huge container of otap arrived. She must have felt it only right to reciprocate. But if she kept this up, that would be the end of her resolution. This only shows how impossible a task it is to stop the Christmas tradition of exchanging gifts between old friends.

Maybe only food gifts should continue to be exchanged in our case. I usually give edible gifts and send them out early, before the Christmas food overload overwhelms us all. Most Christmas food givers (you know who you are) are usually similar early birds, for the very same reason. I must confess I cannot imagine Christmas without fruitcake, lemon pie, ensaymadas, polvoron, cookies and pili mazapan. And I love them not bought but homemade. They are not only most welcome, hoped for, but almost expected. So, please keep them coming.

Abundance in food is solved by sharing, and living in a condo makes that easy, with neighbors in a compact setting, and with security guards and administrative staff and other in-house recipients. Excess food is not a problem either: it’s what my chest freezer is for.

But Cleo is on the right track. Something about gift giving between older people should be modified. In my own way I have tried to. These past years, instead of giving gifts to friends who have everything, I’ve decided to give donations to my favorite charity in their names. I’m pleased to report that they have been very appreciative, and some of them now do the same.

In fact, doing it through organized charities or by parishes instead of with each other seems a better idea; it not only simplifies our own Christmases, it spreads cheer more widely and deservedly. We might even help alleviate some hardships and make a difference in other people’s lives.

Why, indeed, squander our generosity on each other, when it goes a far longer way for others.

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