Columnists Mark my words

Is it time for some gifts to bite the dust?

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

Dust collectors. That’s how my mom affectionately referred to them.

I’m not sure exactly when it started. Even though most people called her “Angie,” Mom’s formal name was Angeline. Somewhere along the line, someone looked at the first five letters of her name and, given Mom’s gentle and helpful temperament, thought it appropriate to buy her the first “dust collector,” I mean, angel.

Over the years, that angel multiplied into an army, a true “heavenly host.” Mom graciously accepted each new one and dutifully bought more Swiffers to keep them looking spiffy. In truth, though, she would have been happier without them.

My mom wasn’t a collector. She lived a simple, practical life. That made it easy for me to buy her Christmas presents but embarrassed me at the same time. While others were getting their moms nice jewelry or clothes, I was giving mine gift certificates to Price Chopper, Wendy’s and Sam’s Club; postage stamps; lottery ticket scratchers; Russell Stover’s dark choco-lates; and a wad of $10 bills. (She’d use just one $10 bill at a time, maybe once a week, as she played the penny slots at the casino. And it was rare for her to “use up” the whole $10, so they lasted a long time.)

My mom could do without fancy, “high-tone” presents; she loved these practical items.

I think about Mom a lot as we’ve endured another Black Friday — which has morphed now into a slew of pre-Black Friday sales — and Cyber Monday. My inbox is filled with “last minute” gift ideas, complete with free shipping or other enticements. There’s a push to buy, buy, buy and hurry, hurry, hurry. And you can feel the stress in the air.

Happily, my family evolved years ago from buying gifts for everyone at our Christmas celebration to picking names out of a hat and buying for just one person to abandoning the whole gift-giving altogether in favor of a relaxed and delicious meal, followed by chatting and a Christmas movie on TV.

It’s not that we didn’t like the idea of giving gifts, but we considered ourselves so blessed that we honestly didn’t need anything more.

These thoughts above were triggered by a meme I’ve seen posted on Facebook lately. I couldn’t find who to credit for it, but I’m grateful to the author as it provides valuable food for thought. It goes like this:

Before you buy a bunch of “stuff” for family and friends this holiday season, try asking them what they really need.

Maybe they need help with a utility bill or a car payment or the rent.

Maybe they need a kid-free night and could use a free babysitter.

Maybe they need a night off from cooking and could use a homemade meal.

Maybe they need help with gas for their car.

Maybe they need a night out with friends.

Maybe they need a cup of coffee and someone just to listen.

Maybe they need help making the holidays bright for their children.

Maybe they need help in some other way, but they either don’t know how to ask for help or are embarrassed to do so.

Maybe YOU could be the one to give them what they really need this season, rather than just more “stuff.”

To these great ideas, I’d add giving someone a ride to church on the weekend or bringing shut-ins Communion and a church bulletin. What ideas would you propose?

If, however, you do insist on bestowing more “dust collectors” as gifts, might I suggest including some Swiffers as well?

About the author

Fr. Mark Goldasich

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