Unique Mindful Holiday Gift Idea
Hey, it’s another holiday season! I wish you all a Happy Holiday and a Happy New Year filled with joy!
I recently heard about a unique gift that really moved me. It’s good for that person who has everything, or even a meaningful gift to remember loved ones who have passed away. I hope this giving trend is one that sticks around.
In the weeks before Christmas, The Riverside Church has an “alternative gift market” where you can purchase gifts like “warm clothes” for homeless people or handmade “blankets for kids in need.” Instead of a tangible gift, the purchase is actually a donation to make those services possible. Your gift to others is your gift to your friends and family members. I think this is such a beautiful way to think about gift giving.
Last year my friend purchased a gift from this market for her father. Her father is the ultimate host, setting the table perfectly before having dinner parties and caring about every detail to make his guests comfortable. My friend got the “Table Setting for Coming Home ministry” for him. Coming Home is Riverside’s program for returning citizens. Their weekly gatherings feature cloth tablecloths, candles, and silverware, hallmarks of a family dinner party like the ones my friend grew up with. Contributing to the “table setting” in his honor was her way, first, of offering to others something she had been given by her father; and secondly, a way of honoring her father’s hospitality and love he’d shown many people over the years.
Riverside has so many programs, that it’s likely you’d find something you can relate to and that will be meaningful to your loved one. The market includes things like commissary credit for detained people, scholarships for LGBTQ youth to go to college, lunch for an older adult, a learning robot for underserved kids (cool, right?), and a turkey at Thanksgiving for a family in need. Riverside has its own gift cards - or, better yet, you can make your own - telling your loved one why you chose a particular “gift” to honor them based on their interests or what they’ve given you. My friend said that when her father read her note, he teared up. (That’s a sign of a great gift!)
Here’s why I think these gifts are so meaningful.
They do good. In a world where we see the worst impacts of selfishness, greed, and consumerism, this kind of gift seems particularly meaningful to me. It causes both the giver and recipient to see beyond themselves. This kind of giving is about spreading love, and not always stuff. This kind of gift also allows the recipient of the gift to feel that he or she is also giving, which is such a great feeling! Giving this way takes the gift-giving tradition of Christmas and uses it as an opportunity to make the world a better place.
They’re perfect for someone who has everything. So many of us are blessed to have what we need for a good life. Why do we have the pressure to find something new and consumable even for people who already have two of every obscure kitchen gadget? It makes gift shopping difficult, leading us to buy obscure liqueurs or magazine subscriptions. While enjoyable, these gifts don’t pull at the heartstrings in the same way and make the season truly special. Besides, their effect will likely fade after a while. I suggest an “alternative” gift for a gift that keeps on giving and requires no additional cabinet space!
They can honor those who have passed. Having lost a close family member last year, I also think this is a beautiful way to remember loved ones. You could give these alternative gifts to benefit a cause that your loved one cared about or represented them in some way. There is no gift that can make up for the loss of someone you love, but you can pass on that person’s legacy, and keep their memories alive, by helping others.
They model giving for kids. While kids love new toys and art supplies, either receiving an honorary gift - or seeing adults receive them - is a great way to introduce the practice of giving back. Pair a toy for a kid in need with an actual new toy for them, for example, so they can see that they still get the joy of receiving gifts while also giving to someone else. Or give parents and grandparents “alternative” gifts to open a conversation about being aware of others and giving back.
In case you’re wondering, The Riverside Church didn’t pay me or ask me to share this! I hope that Urban Designer creates gifts that are timeless, meaningful, and responsible to the earth and its people. At the same time, I would love for us to reexamine our practices of gift giving and see if we can all give more “alternative” gifts that give back and make the world better. I’m sharing this as a genuine gift idea as inspiration for you because it inspired me.