TEAR is another organisation that we give to monthly. I love how community and people minded they are. Did you know TEAR where the FIRST organisation to do the useful gift catalogue thing??!! You know where you buy a goat/tree/toilet/school for someone somewhere else and give it as a gift? They seem to look at people deeply and lovingly and then take a step back and look at the broad picture and make a difference in a really clever way. A bonus of being a donor to TEAR is the quartly magazine you get called Target.
As Christmas maddness starts to desend EVERYWHERE, it was CHALLANGEING and refreshing to read this article by Lyn Jackson:
Only 56 more shopping days till Christmas!
OK, I know it's only October, but time's money, the tinsel's already going up in some shops, and we've got to do our patriotic duty and spend our way out of the Recession We Didn't Quite Have. So unleash those credit cards, and let's go shopping.
Forgive my hysteria. Christmas often does that to me. I cannot understand how we've managed to turn the birthday of the one who said “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me” into an exercise in unmitigated indulgence and conspicuous consumption. Year after year, we Christians bemoan the commercialisation of Christmas, but we do nothing about it! We still spend more than we can afford on stuff that we don't need, creating mountains of waste, all – supposedly – in the name of a child born to a poor, unwed teenage mother under an oppressive regime in Palestine over 2000 years ago. It just doesn't make sense.
Erin Morash puts it in perspective on the “Buy Nothing” website:
“At Christmas, we celebrate Mary's courage and her willingness to be part of change, by buying hundreds (or thousands) of dollars worth of gifts. Most of those gifts will, likely, have been made in factories that employ guess what? Teenage girls in, say, Mexico, Burma or Vietnam, who work fifty to sixty hour weeks for $25 to $50 US. When they finish work at the end of the day, they likely go home to sleep in their family's dirt-floored shack, with no running water or electricity. If they've moved to the city to work, they might live in an overcrowded dormitory with hundreds of other girls and they're charged for their bed in the dormitory.”
We've got enormous purchasing power. That point has been rammed home to us over the last twelve months, by politicians, economists, retailers and social commentators. So this Christmas, let's use it!
Let's say NO to:
Unnecessary, wasteful, excessive spending, especially spending on children. One of the places kids learn to be consumers is under a Christmas tree.
Stuff manufactured under appalling conditions by companies that profit from poverty and exploit their workers. Look for goods manufactured under International Labour Organisation standards. Stuff that might be cheap, but has a huge environmental price tag. Excessive consumption is bad for us, spiritually and financially, but it's also very bad for the planet.
Let's say YES to:
Alternative gifts. Home-made, recycled, locally-produced… the gift of time or help for an aged relative, a meal or outing with a friend, a promissory note for a service to be rendered.
Gifts that support the world's poorest people. Tribes and Nations (www.tribesandnations.com.au) supply beautiful things, some made by participants in projects run by TEAR partners. HEED handicrafts are available from a number of outlets on the web.
Fairly-traded products. Is your church holding a Christmas function? Serve fair trade tea, coffee and chocolate – and make a point of explaining why!
Generosity. If we can pin down any “True Meaning of Christmas” from the usual soppy soufflé of sentimentalism, this is it. Paul directs us to Jesus, who “though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor”(2 Corinthians 8:9), and after all, it's his birthday! If we do some of the above, we'll save money. Let's give it away. Give it to the poorest and the least, because that's just like giving it to Jesus himself.
Read their mission statement here. And you can get involved with them on heaps of different levels too, just by giving money, by selling stuff from the really useful gift catalogue to people at your church/community group, joing a TEAR group and getting to know your community better... Check it out.