Giving meaning to giving
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - December 9, 2019 - 12:00am

At this time of the year, many Filipinos are still fretting over what to give their friends and loved ones for Christmas especially those of us who have quite a number of business associates, professional contacts and good friends. Many of us feel pangs of guilt due largely to decades and generational indoctrination that it is necessary or wise to give those people a gift during Christmas. The good news is that little by little Filipinos have learned to be practical by coming to terms with the fact that we don’t have that much disposable income to be generous. Things have largely improved in the last five years due to social media where many netizens have promoted focus on family, true friends, and those in need. In recent times, gifts have gone down in cost but have gone up in “value” as more and more people give practical, edible or hand made gifts to friends and family.

In spite of this, old school people like me still experience stress and false burdens over how to show appreciation. I want to go big but it’s not easy to do so when all you have is a beer budget and are blessed with more than one whole barangay of good friends and family. Yes, aside from the stress, Christmas does remind me how fortunate I am to have so many good people around me from church, work, even readers who stay in touch and pray or wish me well. If I actually put a small paper star with a name of each, I would need a rather large Christmas Tree!

So how does one go about giving gifts to some people who have everything? How do you give gifts to so many friends and family and still manage to come up with something more “Significant” than an act resembling a  commercial Corporate Social Responsibility project of a company? The word “Significant” is a good start.  The last thing true gift givers would want is to give presents for “compliance”, recyclable or unwelcome white elephants especially those with company logos or blatant promo items. Imagine coming up with a gift that makes people say; Now why didn’t I think of that? If you had a 20,000 peso budget and needed to give gifts to 100 people you can only buy 200 peso gifts. If you had 50,000 you’re still limited to 500 peso gifts. Sorry but you would have to be so imaginative to find “Significant” gifts at P500 each. But if you only bought one gift worth 20,000 or 50,000 pesos, that gift will surely be “Significant”.

OK so you have a “significant” purchase but do you have “value over price”? There are a lot of pricey things on the market but there are millions of unhappy shoppers out there who can tell you price alone will not make something valuable. In order for something to have value over price, the item must appreciate in value and lead to other positive things not more expenses, more greed or more dissatisfaction. So what can you buy for 20K or 50K that is worth more than the purchase price? Assuming you do find such a “thing”; is it “sustainable” or does it end up being a “One Time - Big Time Purchase”? Is it something that will go out of fashion next year? Is it something you can manage to buy or give out next year? Will your friends think it’s a good idea worth carrying and sharing? Will people even remember that you did the big purchase for them? The truth is we never think in terms of sustainability when it comes to Christmas gifts and the likes. We all want to sustain the list of friends, family and contacts through the years but when the Christmas holidays come around we are always caught flat footed, scrambling to make a list of folks we want or need to give gifts to on Christmas. There are gifts out there that are sustainable and sustains people but we just don’t think much about them. Even better is the idea that we don’t have to buy a 20,000 or 50,000 peso gift for everyone, we just buy one for one person using the money that we would have used to buy small comparatively insignificant gifts for the people in your list.

The last and equally important guide is for the gift to be Life Changing.

Instead of 100 or a thousand gifts that won’t make it past 2020, you could exert some effort at maximizing your expenditure by giving a life changing gift and telling your 100 or 1,000 friends that you “invested” the money to help a poor family put up a store, buy the rights for a place to stay, pay for the surgery of someone suffering from a life threatening medical condition, or to put up one or two toilets and washbasins at a public school. In the past, my wife Karen and I have given money to an orphanage and food for the homeless. But in recent years,GOD has directed our efforts towards sending poor high school and college age kids to school. After struggling with the annual stress over gift giving, we realized that a gift that can be “significant, has value over price, is sustainable year after year, and is life changing”, would be to give money to REAL LIFE Foundation of Victory Christian Fellowship that sends poor but deserving kids through college while attending to the physical and spiritual needs of their families.We’ve done it in the past outside of Christmas, but Christmas brings meaning to gift giving.

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