Category Archives: Giving

Consuming Mindfully

It may seem to be a simple purchase–a cheap pair of jeans, an exotic or out-of-season fruit–but how many consumers really take the time to consider the far-reaching effects of a purchase? All “stuff” has a story, and not all stories are good ones. Hopefully, we can all be more aware of how, what, and why we consume and purchase what we do. How in the world does one begin?

Dave Chameides of Care2.com offers the following list of questions consumers might wish to ask before making a purchase. He is unsure of the original author but felt it was definitely worth sharing with others, and I agree. Thirteen questions may seem like a lot to ask, but once you do it a few times you will automatically begin to think in these terms. In fact, you may not even be as tempted to make purchases.

1. Is this purchase something I need?

2. Do I already own something that will serve the same purpose?

3. Can I borrow one instead of buying new?

4. Can I make something that will serve the same purpose?

5. Can I buy a used one?

6. Would someone be willing to split the cost and share this with me?

7. Can I buy or commission one made locally?

8. Can I buy one that was made with environmentally responsible materials?

9. Can I buy one that serves more than one purpose?

10. Can I get something human powered instead of gas or electric?

11. Can I compost or recycle it when I’m done with it?

12. What is the impact on the environment of the full life cycle of it?

13. Does the manufacture or disposal of it damage the environment?

For me, mindful consumption is part of what it means to love my neighbor as myself. Since all that I do has a potential impact on neighbors near and far, I must carefully consider the way I use my time, resources, and purchasing power.

To Consider:

What questions do you ask before making a purchase and choosing to consume?

How can we all be more mindful of our decisions and how they impact others?

Check out The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard. This short film is well worth watching and may just change your life (and the lives of many others).

Photo by Coffee Core. Thanks!

Grab a Good Book…and then share it!

“The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.” –Elizabeth Hardwick

I am thankful for the gift of good books. Nothing gives me as much pleasure as sitting down to read a book (except maybe for a good cup of tea or coffee and some music to accompany said book). Perhaps you read this poem by Emily Dickinson when you were in high school or college:

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any any courses like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll.
How frugal is the chariot
That bears the human soul.
 

How easy it is for us to take this gift for granted! Whether one prefers an e-reader or the feel of an actual book in hand, the ability to read is a treasure that should not be ignored. In fact, one of the greatest gifts a person can give to a child is to pass along and foster the love of reading. I read to my girls nightly when they were young, and now both of them read and have a love for words.

Speaking of reading, I’m going to close and go read one of the good books waiting on my nightstand. How about you? What are you reading right now?

Act of Thanksliving–

Don’t hoard your books! Consider these options for keeping your library light and others in good reading material:

1) Swap a book with a friend to double your reading pleasure,

2) Pass along a good book to a friend with absolutely no expectation of return,

3) Once you have read a book, donate it to your local library for their book sale,

4) Sign up for Paperbackswap.com and trade books with others for only the cost of postage,

5) Leave a book with a note in it about what you enjoyed in a public place for someone else to enjoy and pass along,

6) Give extra books to your local women’s or homeless shelters, or

7) give books to your local schools that are appropriate for English curricula or other courses.

The most important thing is to share your bounty and involve others in the gift of reading. An important part of thanksliving is sharing and learning to let go of possessions. Open hands and open hearts yield mighty and delightfully unexpected returns.

Photo by Horia Varlan used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Ditching the Detritus

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. — Confucious

Simplicity involves unburdening your life, and living more lightly with fewer distractions that interfere with a high quality life, as defined uniquely by each individual.” — Linda Breen Pierce

I am convinced that “stuff” has a tendency to multiply like guinea pigs–fast and furiously. In fact, we live in a world where the accumulation and collection of stuff is encouraged at almost every turn. Buy this, collect that, you need one of these…so the consumer wooing goes. If one listens to this siren song, the result is a life full of stuff, most of which is unneeded for one’s happiness and is, in fact, downright unnecessary and even wasteful.

Think about it. Just how much does a person really need?

Do you ever feel awash in a sea of paperwork? Do you regularly look at drawers or shelves or closets or entire rooms and feel exhausted just contemplating where to start with the overabundance of stuff? Do you feel worn out from the work of managing your “stuff”? Are you holding onto things out of guilt or obligation (Great Aunt Mary’s awful vase or the dollar store tchotchke a student gave you eight years ago)?  Does your detritus (what a great word!) prevent you from living fully and gratefully? Could others benefit from what you do not need?

If you answered yes to one or more questions, then maybe 2013 is the year for you to ditch your detritus. Someone will have to do it eventually. Would you rather simplify now or leave it to your children and other family members to sort through in the midst of grief and loss? Would you rather have someone hurriedly sort your stuff, consigning bits and pieces of your life to various places–including the landfill?

The more simply you can live, the more choices will present themselves, and the more options you will likely have. Can you imagine heading out in your car with your life’s possessions or even taking off with a couple of suitcases? Granted, not every person can minimalize his or her life to this degree, but all of us can take practical steps toward ditching detritus and polishing the contours of our existence.

Here are a few ways to start:

Choose one small space and a short span of time–a drawer and fifteen minutes, a closet and an hour, a room and an afternoon–and determine to make a change. Pull everything out. Spare nothing. Make three piles. One pile is for that which you must absolutely keep, one pile is for items whose fate remains unsure, and the final pile is for items that can leave your life without question. Take the unsure items and box them away for six weeks. If you aren’t forced to open the box, then part with it, preferably unopened to your favorite local charity.

Make a memory, not a mess–What about those precious photos and gifts you keep out of duty, obligation, or love? The easiest way to deal with these items is to photograph them, and keep a digital file of memories. If you are crafty or artsy, consider making something new from them or at least making an artful arrangement for a photograph. Then release these items for others to use and enjoy.

Create some capital–If you are strapped for cash, then by all means find an outlet such as Amazon, half.com, ebay, or Craigslist to sell items of significant cash value. Books, dvds, and vinyl of marginal value (it’s no longer a good deal to sell via Amazon unless you have items of value or significant stock) can be bulk grouped and sold locally via Craigslist or through a used bookstore, game outlet, or entertainment store. Hold a rummage sale.

Give–Consider simply giving items away. Local charities are often happy to take items for resale. If you have books of value, do what my mother did, and pass them along for others to enjoy.  Share from your abundance. Remember, we really don’t “own” anything permanently in this world anyway. We come here empty-handed, and we will leave the same way. If you created some capital and don’t need the funds to pay off debt or secure a college fund, then give the proceeds to the charity of your choice. Keep only what you need; share the rest.

Determine to keep your life lean and clean–Once you’ve rid yourself of detritus, determine to live a simple life that is free of unnecessary stuff and clutter.

  • Place added value on relationships, community, and experience.
  • Make it known that you would prefer any gifts to be in the form of consumables, experiences/time, or gifts to charitable organizations to benefit others. Consider alternatives to the traditional holiday gift-giving glut, such as limiting the number of gifts, choosing to give only fair-trade or consumable items, or exchanging handmade and home-crafted gifts.
  • Keep only items that are functional or beautiful to you.
  • Maintain a “loose hold” on things. Be always willing to let items come in and out of your life without fuss.
  • Designate one period of time each week to stem the tide of clutter and consumption.
  • Avoid recreational shopping.
  • Hold to a one in/one out rule–especially with clothes. If you bring an item into your closet or life, send another item on its merry way.
  • Cultivate the art of giving from your abundance–joyfully and readily–as part of a life of thanks-living.

These are by no means new ideas, but it helps to hear this message over and against the encouragement and pressure our society places on needless, mindless, and excessive consumption. Mindful living and thoughtful use of resources helps to foster a life of thanks-living, and that is a very good thing indeed.

  • How do you discard the detritus of your life in a way that is healthy, fruitful, and mindful of the environment?
  • What advice can you offer from personal experience?
  • What do you hope to accomplish in simplifying your life in 2013?

Photos by coiros and puuikibeach. Thanks!

My Prayer

And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best… — Philippians 1:9-10a

Read: Philippians 1:3-11

Ponder:  “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” — St. Augustine

Reflect: Paul wrote his letter to the believers at Philippi while under house arrest in Rome. He had every reason to be discouraged, but instead he overflows with joy, thanksgiving, and encouragement for this young worshiping community. He praises their generosity, and infuses the entire letter with a sense of hope and belief that this group of Christians will, through love, discern how to serve and be the light of Christ to all whom they encounter.

Sometimes it seems we live in a very dark world. Hate, anger, violence, and fear move like heavy fog across the landscape of our days and nights, settling in life’s deep valleys and the remote crevices of our hearts and minds. We cry to God in the face of injustice, evil, and pain. How can this be?

Paul would, I think, encourage us to live on in love, to continue to find joy in every circumstance, and to trust in God’s gracious presence and never-ceasing love for even the most broken parts of this world.

Even in the darkest and coldest days of winter, light is just beyond the horizon–waiting to dawn and spread hope like sweet honey. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ keep you through the darkest hours of night, assuring you of the promise of light and the presence of love. This is my prayer for you.

Thanks-Living:

Light a candle tonight for peace in the face of evil, brokenness, and darkness. Watch how one small light begins to outshine the dark. So it is with love; love conquers all. Indeed, love has already won. Pray for strength, courage, and wisdom to share and spread love as we await Christ’s coming again into our world.

Photo by thienzieyung and Klearchos Papoutsis. Thanks!

The Generous Saint-aclaus

From the book Tales Told in Holland–a rather odd photo indeed.

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  James 1:17

Read: 2 Corinthians 9:6-9

Ponder:

“Once again St. Nicholas Day

Has even come to our hideaway;

It won’t be quite as fun, I fear,

As the happy day we had last year.

Then we were hopeful, no reason to doubt

That optimism would win the bout,

And by the time this year came round,

We’d all be free, and safe and sound.

Still, let’s not forget it’s St. Nicholas Day,

Though we’ve nothing left to give away.

We’ll have to find something else to do:

So everyone please look in their shoe!”

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

Reflect

Today many Christians will commemorate the life and faithful witness of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra.  We don’t know a whole lot about Nicholas, although many wonderful legends and stories exist. He lived and served during the fourth century in what is now Turkey, and he is believed to have died around 342 CE.

Stories told about Nicholas emphasize his love of God, his love for neighbor, and his particular compassion for the poor and marginalized. My favorite legend involves three young women whose father was about to sell them into slavery (think human trafficking) because there was no money for dowries. The good bishop reportedly placed a bag of gold in one of each girl’s stockings that were hung out to dry, thus enabling them to marry rather than face a life of shame and ignominy.

Legends about the life of St. Nicholas give us our legend of Santa Claus, although the modern North American Santa Claus is a creation of Clement Clark Moore, who in the early 1800s wrote the poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” or what we now know as “The Night Before Christmas.” Moore’s  creation of Santa Claus was an attempt to transform the rowdy, drunken holiday traditions into a more family-oriented, calm, and safe holiday. His good intentions, however, played right into the hands of those seeking to market Christmas, and so gift-giving morphed like atomic fallout into an overspent, overindulged, and harried experience.

Recapturing the story of St. Nicholas is one way to turn the Advent and Christmas focus back to giving in a good way–not giving to excess or beyond one’s means but rather giving to meet needs. Instead of giving out of guilt or duty, St. Nicholas’ witness encourages us to give out of pure love in response to the unmerited love and grace of Christ.

No, I’m really not trying to spoil Christmas for the tots or undo a complicated system of supply and demand that will unmantle the very underpinnings of capitalism and the economic system. I’m simply hoping to provide a way for us to reclaim the expectation, preparation, and joy of the Advent season. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if no family had to go into debt in order to “do Christmas” the right way? Wouldn’t it be lovely if folks could slide into the pews on Christmas Eve and sing “Silent Night” with a sense of wonder and delight rather than exhaustion and anxious hope about whether enough has been prepared and spent?

Christmas presents we purchase come and go or break and end up in some landfill. Gifts of heart and hand last much longer. But the gift of God incarnate for which we wait once again is the one true gift that matters, the one that will never be the wrong size or color and will never need returning.

Thanks-Living

Spend some time today recovering the legends and stories of this good Christian man, whose life witness gives us a model for generosity and care of the poor and marginalized. For more information, check out Bill McKibben’s delightful little book Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas, Adam English’s new book The Saint who Would be Santa Claus, and/or Stephen Nissenbaum”s The Battle for Christmas. You can also learn a lot by visiting the St. Nicholas Center website. Give thanks for Nicholas’ generous spirit and find one way to be secretly generous with someone today.

Consider making St. Nicholas ornaments or cookies. A pattern/tutorial for the ornament, designed by Mollie Johanson/Wild Olive, may be found here. Recipes for cookies may be found here or at the St. Nicholas Center website. Blessings on your day!

Photos by dierken and oddharmonic. Thanks!

Thanks Enough

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 1 Thessalonians 3:9

Read: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Ponder:

“For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life.” — William Blake

Reflect:

Committing to a life thanks-living means expressing thanks in all conditions and at all times. The apostle Paul knew a thing or two about being thankful in any situation. Even while imprisoned in Rome with an uncertain future, Paul still found time to give thanks for the communities he had helped to mentor on his missionary journeys.

The baser side of our human nature encourages us to think of what we do not have. Whatever is bad, sad, or ugly in our lives floats to the surface like toxic flotsam. It clouds the waters of our perception and prevents us from seeing all the blessings of God.

Today try to see the world through Paul’s eyes. If that doesn’t work for you, read some of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s work.  I recommend The Cost of Discipleship for starters. Click here to read excerpts. To read an inspiring story about finding the best in the worst of situations, click here to read the story of two men who forged a friendship from the ashes of anger and death. If your thoughts turn to the negative, take a deep breath and find something to praise or something for which to be thankful. Remember that you are where you are and who you thanks to the work, love, and sacrifice of many others, including Jesus who gives you life forever.

Thanks-Living:

Today make a list of people and things for which you are thankful. Give thanks to God for your many blessings. Call or write one person on your list to let them know that you prayed for them and give joyful thanks for them. Take delight in the life you have this day.

“How Can I Help?”

He even poses for pictures without a fuss!

“How can I help?” Today I am thankful for these four simple words that mean so very much, and I’m even more thankful for the one who speaks them to me.  You see, these four words comprise a question my wonderful spouse asks at least once a day, and I have come to treasure them as a reflection of his love and care for me and our family.

He’ll walk in the kitchen door and see me preparing dinner, set down whatever he’s carrying, and immediately ask “How can I help?” No task is too great or menial. I’m a terrible chopper; my lefthandedness and clumsy fine motor skills never have been helpful when it comes to chopping vegetables. Mr. Husband can chop as well or better than any food channel chef. He’ll set the table if asked or make a salad. In fact, he’ll frequently make an entire meal; we are true partners in the kitchen just as in other aspects of our marriage.

Mr. Husband doesn’t limit this question to meal prep and clean-up either. He is incredibly handy and able to fix almost anything. Broken faucet? No problem. Leaky shower? No big deal. Need an oil change? Done! His acts of service know no limit, and I’m convinced he can make just about anything work again.

If I’ve had a bad day or am worried or dealing with excess stress he’ll simply ask “How can I help?” Help might be a back rub, a listening ear, or a cup of tea. He’s also really good at inciting some awesome belly laughs. He’s also patient, kind, and calm.

So today I am grateful for my spouse, and for his servant heart, gentle spirit, and true partnership. Thank you, Mr. Husband, for your love, your friendship, and your partnership. You’re the best!

How often do you ask “How can I help?” Who has been of great help to you? Who can you thank today?

Photo by Linda Fleagle. Thanks!

Thanksgiving with the Girls

This blog began last November as a way to increase gratitude and turn everyday life into a lifetime of thanks-living. I wanted to learn to live more gratefully, fully, and simply and encourage others to do likewise. The journey has been one both of learning and celebration. We may have a national holiday here in the USA called “Thanksgiving,” but living with gratitude and thanks all the time sure does trump a single day’s remembrance.

But since it is “Thanksgiving Day,” and since I have so much in my life for which to be thankful, I don’t want to neglect the chance to be especially grateful right now in this present moment.

For the first time in many years my mother and both of my daughters were gathered with me around the table. Our dear friend Debbie joined us, too. I was able to cook up a traditional family feast without massacring the turkey or ending up with lumps in the gravy. It was a good time; however, it came at a price.

My mom took a lot of risks to fly up here. Her health has been tenuous for a while now, but thanks to the good folks at Delta Airlines and her friend, Greg, she braved the journey. It has been wonderful to have her here, and she even made us one of her awesome pecan pies for dinner.

My wonderful husband also paid a price. It is his tradition to travel to New England to be with his family at Thanksgiving. Pastors have a tough time getting away at Christmas, so if you want to spend a holiday with family Thanksgiving is the window of opportunity. Because my oldest daughter had surgery and could not travel, Mr. Wonderful Husband suggested I stay home with her and have a holiday with the girls. When I mentioned flying my mother up, he was completely supportive because he realizes how precious time with family is and how seldom I am able to see my mother (who lives in Tennessee) and have both daughters home, too. I am grateful that his family understands why I stayed home this year.

So the day has been joyous. It has been fun. It has been a bit bittersweet, too. Gathering around a table spread with all the good foods that have been a part of my (and my daughters’) childhood, with my mother seated next to me, with prayer, laughter, and much joy has been better than any Hallmark sentimental moment.

I am thankful for family. I am thankful for traditions that bind us together. And, I am thankful that on occasions tradition can be broken or altered through acts of love and caring that are truly gifts of the heart. Thank you to my family–all of you–for the gift of this Thanksgiving Day.

What about today meant something really special to you? To whom do you need to say a special word of thanks?

And as my Thanksgiving gift to you, here’s my recipe for Tipsy Taters (a decadently delicious take on candied sweet potatoes)

Tipsy Taters

You will need–

Enough cooked and sweetened yams for the number of folks you want to feed (or a large can or two of yams)

1 egg

brown sugar to taste (I use about 1/4 cup with sweetened canned yams or more for fresh)

spices to taste (I use cinnamon, ground cloves, and nutmeg)

somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 cup Kahlua or other good coffee liquor

2 to 4 tablespoons melted butter (margarine won’t cut it–don’t even try)

Mash and mix these ingredients and place in a greased casserole dish.

For Topping (get ready to sin and sin boldly)–

Mix together brown sugar, sweetened flaked coconut, and chopped pecans using enough to liberally cover the contents of the dish. Melt 1/2 cup butter (again, no margarine please) and Kahlua to taste. Pour melted butter and Kahlua over sugar/coconut/pecan mixture and stir until you have a lumpy but not overly moist mixture that can be sprinkled liberally over the yam mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes (topping should be bubbly and browned but not baked to a crackly crisp). Enjoy!

Healthcare and Pizza?

Pizza is one of my favorite foods. I consume a lot of it, most homemade, but still a hefty portion at various restaurants. But here’s one thing I won’t do any longer–stuff my face at the expense of the pizza delivery guy or gal. That means no more patronizing Papa John’s Pizza.

I was appalled to read today that Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter plans to cut hours for his already meagerly compensated employees. Why? To avoid having to absorb the cost of medical benefits associated with the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka Obamacare). Earlier this summer he was chided when he stated that the cost of each pizza would increase by 11-14 cents because of the legislation.

Nobody asked me, but I’d gladly pay more for my pizza if the company CEO told me that he was providing a living wage and benefits for all employees. Fast food employees make close to minimum wage. That means the average pizza delivery person makes $15,000 plus tips in 2010 dollars. Don’t forget, said employee also drives his or her own vehicle and absorbs the cost of gas and car maintenance. Plus, that’s assuming the employee is full-time. Mr. Schnatter and other restauranteurs plan to avoid hiring full-time employees, meaning that same pizza delivery person will have to work a couple of part-time jobs to keep a nose above the U.S. poverty level.

As a community college English instructor, I always had students who delivered pizza while working on a degree that would afford them better earning potential. Oh, the tales they told! Don’t count on customers being good tippers; many tip poorly if at all. If these hourly wage earners get sick, need surgery, or are pregnant–too bad. No work equals no pay. The vast majority of these individuals were bright and articulate. Many of them were working to break out a life of poverty or to overcome the consequences of poor choices.

Mr. Schnatter and other entrepreneurs certainly have the right to run their businesses the way they see fit. There’s a reason they are wealthy, and I am middle class. That’s what a culture of choice and free enterprise is all about, right? What I have trouble squaring is a business that doesn’t put the well-being of its employees on at least the same level as the well-being of its customers and its quality control. After all, happy workers help ensure good quality and satisfied consumers.

Mr. Schnatter is quite the success story, although not one of rags to riches. He was a go-getter, a hard worker, and created a company that has done amazingly well, with a net worth worth somewhere around $400 million. The University of Louisville football stadium was named “Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium” thanks to his more than 10 million dollars worth of generous gifts to the University’s athletic program. Papa John’s is also the official pizza of the NFL and the Super Bowl, and you know that cost a pretty penny. Spokesperson Peyton Manning just signed a deal to own 21 Papa John’s locations in the Denver area and appears in television ads touting the pies.

Again, great business decisions and advertising. I’m not faulting Mr. Schnatter for being less than savvy. But come on, can’t you invest a little of the profits in the workers in the trenches? Can’t you help revolutionize the industry in a new and more humane way, one that would make Papa John’s an ethical star in the industry?

Mr. Schnatter understands the high costs associated with health care because he has a daughter who was born prematurely as the result of an automobile accident and who has had access to the best therapies and treatments medical science has to offer. Might that not motivate this CEO to assist his employees with basic healthcare? Evidently not.

In a People Magazine article from 1997, Mr. Schnatter was talking about the family mansion in Louisville and the addition of a 6,000 square foot carriage house that will never house any horses. “It’s too nice for them,” he says. “I just like building stuff.”

That’s cool, Mr. Schnatter, and I can appreciate that you enjoy building businesses and stuff. It’s what you do. As for me, as a pastor and writer, I’m in the business of building up people and working on behalf of justice for all God’s children. So, let’s make a deal. I’ll start eating your pizza again when you put your money where your mouth is and do right by your employees. And yes, I’ll gladly pay extra for it because that’s how business works–somebody has to pay.

In the meantime, and I suspect it may be a long time, I’ll make my money count by putting what I might have spent at Papa John’s into my church’s offering plate to benefit hunger ministries and the working poor. I’m going to invite everyone I know to join me in this effort, too. How’s that for a deal?

Wondering what this has to do with thanks-living? I’m glad I have the choice to make a difference and stand up for fellow Americans who don’t have access to healthcare like I am blessed to have.

Photos by moresheth, Arturo de Albornoz, and Keith Allison. Thanks!

Thankful I’ll be Home on Black Friday

Disclaimer: I begrudge no one the experience of shopping on Black Friday. If that’s your thing or your holiday tradition, go for it. To each his or her own.

I, however, won’t be engaging in any retail recreation or therapy on the day after Thanksgiving for several reasons that range from ethics and justice to simplicity and supporting local businesses. I’m thankful to be able to opt out of the consumer hamster wheel and choose a different way to spend the day. Here are my reasons.

1. Because we keep Christmas giving simple, there is no need to rush out and save a few cents (which is generally what it amounts to once the value of my time and fossil fuel is figured in). I don’t take pleasure in shopping, so there is particular incentive to hold this day sacrosanct for consumer activities. I would much rather stay home and read, write, play games, or watch a movie.

2. I find myself resenting the retail world’s ever-increasing competition to be the first, the earliest, and the most sensational. You can now shop Black Friday deals before the day even officially arrives. I find it equally annoying that the Halloween candy was competing for space with Christmas decorations before the little witches and goblins had a chance to don their costumes.

3. It’s pretty tough to balance giving thanks for abundant blessings one day and then obsessing over wants before the sun rises on a new morning. Whatever happened to being content? Or even simply letting your food settle before thinking about what to consume next? We in North America are incredibly blessed. Why not savor those blessings a little longer?

4. When I do shop, I prefer to do so locally, supporting independent businesses whenever possible. I also like to give gifts that are consumable, practical, or revolve around time and experiences. We make our own jellies and other canned goods to give. Other good options are handmade soaps, candles, plants, and wearable art. Best of all are gifts of time: concert passes, a certificate for dinner and a movie, or a coffee shop gift certificate. My favorite gift last year was a $5 stainless steel serving spoon. Hey, it gets used almost every day, and I get to tell the gifter repeatedly how much I like it!

5. Finally, I’m just stubborn enough and of an un-consumer mindset to resent being told what’s a great deal and what I simply can’t live without. Now that we don’t have television we get to opt out of a lot of the warm, snuggly holiday advertisements. Bah! Humbug! (Note: I direct that last Dickens-esque comment only to the commercial consumption machine and its minions–not to any holiday celebration.)

So, what alternatives exist to falling into the Black Friday black hole?

1. Just don’t do it. Plan a day of leftovers, lounging, sports, hunting, or hiking (if the weather allows). Spend time with family and friends. Give your children or grandchildren an entire day of your time. Take a little time to write letters, Skype, or phone the ones you love who live far from home.

2. Gather a group of friends and family members for a crafting day, bake-a-thon, or craft gift exchange. Make gifts together or barter and exchange for handmade gifts to give. You’ll have a blast, save money, and support one another’s artistic endeavors.

3. Declare a do-nothing pampering day. Take a long bubble bath. Eat fair-trade organic chocolate. Drink good fair trade coffee or tea. Stay in your pajamas all day long. Read that book you’ve been putting off. Give your spouse or significant other a massage. Do whatever brings you bliss. Remember that self-care is important, too. Hey, at least you won’t risk being mowed down in the quest for a limited edition Furby or the latest i-whatever!

4. Give of yourself. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen. Host a coat, glove, and hat drive. Collect non-perishables for the local food bank. Be creative and some way to give to others rather than to consume.

If you must shop on this most unholy of retail days, consider these alternatives:

4. Hit up the local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or consignment shops. See what perfectly wonderful treasures you might find for friends and family who support your un-consumer predilections and who find joy in preventing new additions to the consumer stream.

5. Shop locally. Go to your local farmer’s market, boutiques, or art galleries and support your local economy. Pay particular attention to selecting fairly traded, sustainable, and locally made items. Buy consumables if possible. Refuse to set foot in any big box or chain store for at least this one day.

6. If you simply must shop the major consumer retailers, consider carefully planning only what you need to purchase and make those purchases online. My super-bargainista friend Melissa tells me you can get almost anything at Black Friday prices that way. She would know because she is amazing at finding excellent deals. A major part of the reason she shops like this is to give to those in need and support local charities.

Finally, remember that there are very few real bargains. Somebody pays somewhere along the consumer chain. It may be that underpaid factory worker in China, or it may be the planet from the fossil fuel emissions expended to tote said “bargain” halfway around the world. It may be the big box store employee who gets just enough hours to prevent him or her from qualifying for benefits, or it may be you who supports government subsidies for these workers through your taxes. It might even be the person who receives the gift and finds out that corners were cut in the quality of the item to accommodate the supposed bargain price.

When you must consume, do your best to consumer justly, minimally, wisely, and thoughtfully. Make your precious resources count as best you can. Waste not, want not, and love your neighbor as yourself.

What ideas do you have for countering the Black Friday consumption monster?

Photos by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com, KayOne73. glindsay65, bradley j, and Breibeest. Thanks!