Sunday, December 21, 2008

Deep Thoughts at the Dollar Tree

This afternoon while the kids were napping, I snuck off to the Dollar Tree. I'm sponsoring a mom and a 5 year old boy at a homeless shelter for a party tomorrow night. Please do not think of me as super worthy of anything, because, in case you missed it- I went to the DOLLAR TREE.
They did give us a $10 limit per person, though, so I thought this would be the best way to stretch my budget.
While I was there, I mainly ran into people who were doing their family Christmas shopping. I overheard several conversations, but the one that stuck with me most was this one:

"Look at these neat iPod covers."
"Yeah- cool- only a $1."
"Too bad I don't know anybody with an iPod."
"Me, either."

Hmmm. Until then, I kind of thought of iPods now as what a walkman would have been in middle school- a standard accessory with your Jams. We actually have 3; 5 if you count our iPhones. I didn't think of this as excessive until then. And I sulked away.
We are not "rich" by most standards, but I've found out that everything is relative. Case in point: I still think I'm young, but my babysitter has called me ma'am before. (And she promised she would NOT do it again.)
I may be quoting this stat incorrectly, but in Sunday School a while back we were talking about the average income of people around the world. In America, it's $40,000. In Africa, it's $4,000. So, on average, we Americans make 10 times more than they do. Which, in their eyes looks like $400,000 would look to someone who makes $40,000. Get the point? It's all relative.

Back to the Dollar Tree and my oversized green buggy for the undersized aisles. As I filled up this basket and made tough decisions as to how best spend my $10 (questionable generic M&Ms in a candy cane or "mock"olate looking Santa Claus pops) , I wondered if these were the only Christmas presents they would get. I wondered if my own kids would be just as happy with a bag full of Dollar Tree finds than with the hundreds of dollars of name brand, top of the line toys, clothes, games and books that await them in the playroom closet.

I want to teach them the true meaning of Christmas, but I also want them to have all the material things of Christmas. Is this possible?

Today in Sunday School we talked about living a simple life (nice guilt trip before Christmas, huh?) and how being a Christian actually is supposed to be a step towards simplicity and living like Christ. Apparently, Jesus didn't have granite countertops or 5 iPods. It's not in the Bible, so I'm not positive about that, but most scholars are going with this theory.

I've realized that I'm going to have to make a decision one way or another as to which route I want to go. Then I'm going to have to follow through with my money. Ick. I know the answer, but it is so much easier to just do what everybody else does, isn't it? It's much easier to get the STUFF than to live without and feel like you're missing out. Or explain to your kids why they don't NEED 432 Thomas trains. I think that feeling a "little less" will diminish once I fill myself more with Jesus, but I have to admit that the material things are still out there. A constant struggle with humanness.
So, if you are still shopping for me, I've decided to take a step back from materialism this Christmas (note: decision made on Dec 21st- when done with shopping). Just head over to the Dollar Tree and pick out a few iPod covers (5 to be exact) and I will be thrilled with those.


Jenny said...

This is a hard lesson, but gosh I sure do feel it more each year: the need to get LESS. I want the simple life, but sometimes it's hard to find the balance between wants and needs. It's also hard to teach children that, and my kids are starting to learn the hard way. Good luck, Hill, and Merry Christmas!

LOOK WHO'S MARRIED!!!! said...

What a great lesson to learn in a dollar tree. It just goes to show you that good examples can be seen anywhere. I know a lot of people who are going LESS this year or asking for NO TOYS. It really is easy to get out of control because you just want to spoil your kids while they are young. But, I remember those days...getting all those toys and forgetting about them on January 3rd. It's sad, but we really do over-do things. I appreciate your desire to return to simplicity. Thanks for this post.

becky said...

you are a hoot!! i struggle with the same thing. i make a budget and blow it every single time. tonight we were opening gifts at home with a friend and her little girl and they opened their gifts, the adults gifts, and then wanted to tear open what was under the tree. i was glad my kids got that everything wasn't for them (friend is an only child and only grand child and doesn't get the concept). for me, that was at least a step.

Kellie said...

I struggle with this DAILY - I want to be simple - maybe 3 gifts and that's it. BUT, we do Christmas with my sister-in-law this year (whose husband happens to be a dentist and makes a lOT more money than we do) and I so don't want my children saying "why did Santa bring them more than us" what do you do?

Hollie and Janie said...

Your posts are always so insightful! I think that time is our most valuable and cherished gift. Being a teacher, I have seen kids who have everything they could possibly want, except for their parents' time. Your boys are so blessed by you and Jason and all the wonderful, loving experiences you give them each day!

annieck said...

Great post, Hillary. The last five years for us have been tough with starting a business. We have had to cut back at Christmas every year since opening our business. Every year, we save all year for Christmas gifts, only to have to use it for bills right before Christmas because something doesn't go as planned. Woe is me, right?
Having very little extra money every year at Christmas has forced us to evaluate our priorities. Yet I must admit, it doesn't come without some sulking (by me, of course).
This year, I was determined not to make Christmas about gifts (just ask Tristan; he's only heard it a thousand times). Thing is, I still want him to have stuff. I never think he has enough. I SO am trying to work on that.
You see, we can't buy our kids much at all this Christmas, but their grandparents pick up all the slack.
So they still get WAY too much.
Maybe next year, we can all encourage each other to limit our kids' gifts and instead focus on giving to those who don't have what we have. I could use an accountability partner!
Thanks for the great post, Hil!!! :)

BASSakward Tales said...

hi hillary...i don't know if i have "introduced" myself yet or not...but if i have not...i am becky tucker's college roommate...i read your blog daily...i have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you and your family...your boys are are hilarious...just like it a dothan thing...and your insight is incredible...yes i have had those dollar tree is sobering to think of what we have and what of it we truly need...i told my husband i think for the holidays next year we are going to work at the local soup kitchen...not only to show our kids how to serve others but to remind ourselves as well...merry Christmas and many blessings for the new year.......

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