She is Jennifer Haney, a biologist employed by Mountain Conservation Trust of Georgia. She lives in Farner, a tiny unincorporated community in neighboring Polk County a few miles north of Ducktown.
Although we have not heard from the mindful mom this year, we remain impressed with some of the Yuletide giving suggestions made in 2012. All are just as relevant a year later, and we hope Cleveland and Bradley County residents have taken a few into account during this festive shopping season.
With only today, Monday and Tuesday remaining before the wrapping paper explosion of Christmas morn, it is assuredly food for thought to consider some of her ideas.
For background, let us be frank in explaining the letter writer was unhappy with what she perceived as the worsening commercialism of Christmas.
For readers who don’t recall the letter, it was first published in our newspaper edition dated Dec. 20, 2012. It came to us with a two-fold purpose.
One, the author boldly chastised the accounting side of the holiday and suggested Christmas commercialism is being driven by too many companies with big money who are simply trying to make more big money.
And two, she offered suggestions on how not necessarily to eliminate the commercialism of the holiday, but on ways to reduce its fever.
Here are a few of her ideas which are just as compelling a year after they were first presented to us.
1. Buy local goods: “These are usually [from] smaller business people and often the ingredients from the products have not been shipped from China,” she advised. “This saves on environmental costs of transport and keeps our money local.”
2. Buy things that are not things but still fun: “This can be movie theater passes, restaurant gift certificates, massages, ice skating rink tickets, driving range coupons, concert tickets or any event/activity the receiver would enjoy. This also extends the euphoria of Christmas gift-getting because even after Christmas you have something to look forward to.”
3. Pay a loved one’s bills or buy groceries for the month: “One of my sons was struggling through school and working like a dog. He needed a good car to get to work so he bought one at a buy-here-pay-here. It was great that he was able to do this, but also very expensive for him. One year for Christmas, I paid his car payment. He could not have been more surprised or happy to find at Christmastime he had no car payment and a little extra money.”
4. Buy educational classes: “This can be any class the recipient would enjoy, but would otherwise not have spent the money on themselves.” (Ideas include painting, pottery, musical instrument lessons, dance, karate and yoga.)
5. Donate for others: “... For the people who always wished they could do more for society, but have never found the time nor money, donate to a charity they would support. Many charities promote ‘financially adopting’ such as sponsoring a child or an animal or planting a tree.”
The above list can be especially helpful to last-minute shoppers. But we believe the writer’s intent was to encourage such a mindset for future Christmases ... for instance, next year, the year after and years well into our consuming beyond.
We thanked Jennifer last year — editorially — for her thoughts. We do so again. In this growing season of joy and family togetherness, it is wise counsel to remember the gift itself is often a material possession; the genuine comfort it delivers is quite another matter.
Obviously, not all will agree with this “Christmas in Farner” plea. Some will debate its message. It is their right.
But frankly, this Tennessean makes some good points. While a few are more practical than others, all are worth considering.
Besides, at its simplest, a gift is just a gift. But the spirit behind its giving is the story that most stirs the soul.
Such messaging shares common themes — love, hope, endearment, inspiration and gratitude.
Whether all come packaged in a pretty red bow or glittery wrapping paper of green, each tells the story of Christmas.
It is a story of people.
It is a tale of compassion.
It is a parable of giving.
Its telling will outlast the ages. Its glow will forever warm the heart.