The Bank Christmas Tree

by Maggie Wells on 8 December 2008 94 comments
Photo: iStockPhoto

I try oh how I try to not walk through the day *looking* for metaphors to come smacking me in the face, but sometimes no matter how much I don’t want to be thinking in those terms, they come raining down.

In the bank this morning, I was waiting in line. Tiny bank. Tiny town. We all know each other. I look over at the tree which has paper ornaments from the ‘needy’ children in town and their ages and what they want for Christmas. My husband and I were both planning on buying something for a girl and boy our own children’s ages.

But while we were able to buy our kids what they asked for (a couple of Autobot Transformers and a sterling silver locket and a Sailor Moon) we would never be able to afford the tree of the needy. What did the needy kids in our town want the town Santa bank customers to buy?

From ages 4-17 they seemed to want iPods, and Wii and Xbox. There was literally not a single kids’ wish list that we could fulfill with something like a couple of Transformers and a piece of jewelry and a doll. And I had time to look at the whole tree in that bank line.

Where are kids ---not just needy kids---getting the idea that it’s appropriate for 4 year olds to have iPods? I’m sure the 17 year olds filling out the ‘needy’ cards have more awareness that a neighbor and not Santa will probably be flipping the bill. Do the 17 year olds think that gifts need to start over $100 to be a good gift?  Did the parents put them up to this? Is this happening in your town? I know it's difficult to instruct other people's children on graciousness but wasn't there someone somewhere that could head this off at the pass? I've been talking to others today about this. Apparently the entitled need for expensive items is quite common on these types of Christmas toy drive programs.

The  bank teller, when I got to the window, said she’s hearing it from both sides. The parents of the needy kids saying to ask big. The possible donors all flabbergasted at the nerve. And what does it say about both sides that we have these reactions? Do we have assumptions of how those in need are supposed to act? Do we also have assumptions of how those with cash should act?

I left the bank without taking 2 of the paper ornaments to buy gifts. I apparently, don’t have enough money or patience to fill the Christmas wish of two needy kids in my small town of 2000 people. Another friend said to just buy what I would have bought my own kids and donate that instead. But somehow it’s touched too much of a nerve with me now. I just can’t do it. Given that this is a 'tight' Christmas for most of us how could the organizers of this think that any potential gift giver might not have this reaction? It's just not sitting well. I feel bad for the kids and I want to slap the parents.

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Guest's picture

I'm torn on this one. I mean, I can understand why a kid might feel like this is his or her one shot at an iPod. On the other hand, I am taken aback when the requested items are so pricey; I don't spend that much on gifts for people that are in my family.

Andrea Karim's picture

I'm pretty sure the the "angel" trees in our mall put a kibosh on these types of present requests a couple of years ago when things started getting out of control. People were understandably upset that not having enough funds to by an iPod would qualify as "needy".

Last year, my office sponsored families from the domestic abuse prevention center, and I picked the only kid that I could afford - a 16 year-old girl who wanted a guitar. We had to purchase from local stores (no online buying, in case they needed to return the gift) and I couldn't find a starter guitar at a local music center (the store had to be within a reasonable bus-ride, because many of these shattered families had no transportation) for under $200. Finally, I just bought her a $100 gift certificate to the music store and hoped that she would find a used instrument there to her liking. Her gift wasn't even that unreasonable a request - and I doubt she knew how much a guitar can cost.

Other coworkers pooled money to buy Xboxes and video games for kids. I absolutely refused.

 

Guest's picture

Sorry but my husband's guitars (and most of my instruments) are from yard sales/thrift shops/pawn shops or bought used! You CAN get a guitar for less than $100 if you look aroun

It's a weird entitlement fantasy of the "needy" that all the rest of us are rich folks and $100 here or there won't make a difference. I am sure that they get tired of used stuff- but almost everything I have is used, too! And I don't have an iPod, either!

My husband's students used this rationale as an excuse to lift (i.e. steal) anything that wasn't nailed down! But funny thing, they turned up their noses as slightly outdated technology - so you could leave a perfectly good boom box around! I wish they could get a clue that a degree of THRIFT makes the middle classes...The prevailing attitude of resentment is counter-productive and potentially more. After the L.A. riot the gutters of my Hollywood neighborhood were littered with wrappings from CDs - which had been looted from a local record store. These weren't necessities of life....

In order to make it in the U.S. you have to acquire a good understanding of consumption and your part in it - and it seems that that's not a lesson these kids are learning.

Guest's picture
lucille

I help moderate a local Freecycle group and I can tell you it isn't just the kids. I have seen parents with an unbelievable sense of entitlement and zero shame asking total strangers to give them things simply by claiming they are needy. The requests were not simple ones either, they were big ticket or requests for everything including a tree, food and expensive gifts.
Since sob stories and charity requests are not allowed on the group we rejected the messages and this was after an admin was posted reminding people that Freecycle is not a charity and it had a long list of all the local resources for food, gifts for kids and other holiday gear that have been arranged in the community.

It really soured me on the whole holiday idea of helping the supposedly needy in town not to mention wondering who is really in need of something and who is just a con artist.

Someone doing the tree at the bank really should have been involved in the requests. The gift tree at the mall nearby just has gender and age so the person knows what type of gift to buy. I'm also pretty sure they make sure people are actually in some sort of need before they can sign up to be on the tree.

But as far as those requests, my kids don't have those things, why would I go buy them for someone elses?

Guest's picture
countemall

We've always tried to buy from our church lists with the list of kids needing new school clothes and supplies and Christmas gifts rolls around. But we just can't afford the requests for designer jeans, expensive athletic shoes or XBoxes that are on most of the lists. We're smack dab in the middle class and often scraping by.

Instead, we sponsor a child in Ecuador. Every month, we pay to help her go to school, buy her clothes and get her medical care. We'd like to add a child from Haiti too. I'd rather spend my extra cash there than on expensive toys for my kids or any American kids. I'm not against giving a small toy to a needy child. I was a child who grew up getting those donations. But even our American poor are rich by most of the world's standards, and we all need to be remember that.

Guest's picture

I went shopping with my aunts and my mom, who were shopping for clothing for a family in a battered women's shelter. I was there for the socializing, not to shop. But the department store had a tree like the one you mention, sponsored by the local chapter of the Boys' and Girls' Club. There were the little paper ornaments you mentioned, with the names, ages, and desired gift of the kids. I did see one mp3 player. But I also saw that a 10-year-old girl wanted a purse. An 8-year-old boy wanted a watch. And a 10-year-old boy wanted a board game.

I bought the boy a board game. The ornament entitled the buyer to an extra discount at the register. After all was said and done, I was out $6 for that gift, and I didn't even have to wrap it. A kid asking for a board game isn't asking for much, in my opinion. And I was happy to get it for him. My mom and aunts went way overboard for the three kids and battered mom, as usual. They do that every year.

Guest's picture

If I were the needy kids' parent, then I'd probably ask them to ask big and then sell their gift for some money. Seriously, they should just straight up ask for money if they're really needy. If you get an iPod you'll need to buy songs for it all the time, and it's not frugal at all.

Guest's picture
Guest

Maybe most of the kids dont even get the chance to ask for something and the parents do it?
Or maybe the kids think ill ask for this because i know i wont ever get it off my mam or dad?? and i want to be like other kids?

Guest's picture
asithi

We are restricted to only purchasing a gift from the child's wishlist. Then, we have to circle the gift on the wishlist and stick the wishlist as a gift tag on the gift. And everything is over a $100. Even a 8 month old baby was asking for an ipod. Shouldn't the parents be asking for baby formula or diapers?

Every year it gets harder and harder for my office to get people to take on more kids. We have a gift quota from Social Services based upon the size of our office. For example, for an office our size, we should be able to get gifts for 15 kids. That is $1500 at $100 each kid! And some gifts require all the safety gear. So if a kid is asking for a bike, that means a bike, helmet, and bike lock. It would take several people pooling their money in order to get one gift.

That is why I only donate to the Toys for Tots gift drive because I can spend $100 on board games and dolls at Walmart and know that I am providing gifts for at least 5-6 kids versus one.

Guest's picture
Alpha Raye

>>We have a gift quota from Social Services based upon the size of our office. For example, for an office our size, we should be able to get gifts for 15 kids. That is $1500 at $100 each kid!<<

I love that BS concept. The assumption that an office gives you a quota about what you all can afford.
Gosh...

Guest's picture
Guest

I used to choose a child the same age as my son and buy a pair of jeans, a long sleeved shirt, a few small (Dollar Store) art supplies, and one small toy. In my mind, if I was a kid facing a Christmas with no gifts this would seem like a lot, and it would help the parent(s) with things that they would need (like clothes) as well. However the last few years the "requests" have changed to video game systems and other expensive stuff - stuff that I can't afford for my own kid, and it put me off on the whole thing. In my mind, if you are needy enough to be included in the tree program you should be happy with what you get, and not be so greedy with your requests. I now focus on knitting hats, mittens, and scarves for the homeless and/or elderly, but ever time I pass those awful trees I feel resentful that people can be so greedy.

Guest's picture
Jan

Its too bad that the kids are asked to pick a gift. Most have no idea of cost. I had foster kids and they didn't have a clue about gifts but often asked for very pricey things. In the end they were happy with what they got.

Guest's picture
Cammy

Our local organization must have done a more thorough job of screening this year because gift requests were much more reasonable and appropriate to the age of the giftee. And that's it for me. It's not the cost of it that bothers me; it's the appropriateness. I can absolutely understand a youngster wanting a bicycle or inline skates or something of that nature, but when 2 year olds are asking for digital cameras, something's wrong.

Btw, I took two angels this year: an 18 month old whose tag requested "a soft doll" and some clothes (total-$25), and a senior citizen who requested Windsong perfume and socks (total-$30.)

Greg Go's picture
Greg Go

Margaret -- the part that really fascinated me was the fact that this tree was in a "Tiny bank. Tiny town. We all know each other."  

I wonder about the "shame" quotient involved in giving/asking in a small town. 

Did you see any names on the tree that you recognized?  Do the needy take into account that by participating, they're kind of announcing their situation to the entire town?

I wonder if your (good) questions about the mentality/expectations of askers and givers should be qualified by the size of the town, and who are the potential participants in the gift asking/giving.

Great post.  Got me thinking.... :)

Guest's picture
Amber

I did the same thing at Walmart in Columbus, OH. I finally found the one kid on the Christmas tree that didn't want something ridiculously expensive. I admire and want to help the child's parents who want to use this charitable time to get items that their child truly needs, and I am happy to help.

Julie Rains's picture

I have also opted out of angel tree giving and replaced it with other forms of giving, such as food for the local crisis ministry, an urban crisis ministry, money to fund a Christmas party for families with foster children. I have definitely seen some requests that I thought were out of line. I have also been annoyed at some of the conditions placed by agencies, like banning items from a certain store (which I might frequent myself).

On the other hand,  being needy shouldn't  necessarily mean that someone shouldn't enjoy what everyone else at your school may have. And, sometimes, people can buy and then give cheap stuff that is barely serviceable.

I don't mind, though, funding grocery bills (for example, one mom asked for a grocery gift card as her angel tree gift one year), so that others may then have some extra spending money to use however he/she/the family would like. I would vote for having the bank place some restrictions or guidelines on what types of gifts recipients should request.   

Guest's picture

I touched on this issue in a Smart Spending blog essay. Some people were outraged that children asked for expensive items. But as Jan noted, a lot of kids don't have any idea how much things cost. They say "iPod" because they see the people around them using them.
One reader who left a comment said her own kids would make a wish list that ran to a page and a half and included things that they knew they would NEVER get. But it's a "wish" list, so they put it down, just in case.
It's like this: If you can't afford to buy the expensive tech stuff, then pick a kid who just wants a board game. If there aren't any less-expensive toys being requested, then donate the money you would have spent to some other charity. Of course, it wouldn't hurt to mention to the volunteers that plenty of people can't buy this stuff for their OWN kids, so the children's parents can be given a heads-up next year to remind their kids to ask for some realistic stuff, too.
I also think there's a hint of paternalism in some of the complaints/outrage about this issue. Some "charitable" givers seem to think that needy kids should be satisfied with whatever they get. Which, in theory, they should. But remember: These are children. They don't always understand cost. They just want to see a gift under the tree.
As I see it, you have two choices: Give what you can afford with an open heart, or don't give at all. What you shouldn't do is judge these children: "Well, they have a lot of nerve wanting what REGULAR kids want. These are poor children! This is charity! They ought to be glad they're getting anything at all!"
We created a consumerist society and are raising these kids to become members of that society. We can't blame them for wanting what advertising and their peers say they should want.

Guest's picture
Lalaroo

What you shouldn't do is judge these children: "Well, they have a lot of nerve wanting what REGULAR kids want. These are poor children! This is charity! They ought to be glad they're getting anything at all!"

Thank you. I hate this attitude that I'm seeing. "Why don't these poor kids live up to my Dickensian fantasy, where they'll be satisfied with whatever I give them and worship me for throwing something their way?! They're getting much too uppity, these poor kids today!" Gross. They're kids! What child has ever wanted jeans and a shirt for Christmas? Especially something a stranger got them, who doesn't know their size or style!

It makes me wonder why you people are giving. Is it to feel proud of yourselves, and reassure yourself that you're not like those people? Or is it to make a child happy?

Guest's picture
Guest

You make an excellent point. Poor people are just like us, they just have less money! If we all took a second and examined just how close we are to being poor ( one pay check, maybe 2?), we'd be less hasty in our judgments. That being said, the requests which the original author noted are ridiculous. My family is middle class and we can't afford gifts like this for our own children. You can "blame" the media and society from here to sunday, but it's by shirking our personal responsibility to educate and ingratiate our children that this kind of sickness evolves.

Guest's picture
Tracy

Thank you for being a voice of reason on this topic. "Poor kids should get whatever charity *I* feel is acceptable" is a very sad way for human beings to think about one another. This post author did the right thing by walking away; her kind of help doesn't really help at all.

Guest's picture

Last year, I spent $500 giving the teenager on the Angel Tree all the things she wanted. It was really a stupid exercise. Poor kids don't need a freaking iPod.

This year, I did meals on wheels.

Guest's picture
Guest

Ok, then. What DO poor kids need? Why shouldn't a poor kid want an iPod, just as a rich kid would?

Guest's picture
Susan C.

Our church always had an "angel tree" and I know that there are several in the town I'm currently living in. There is one in our college snack bar that is run by our Student Education Association. The gifts are all for needy kids and people from ABLE, our assisted living program for the mentally and physically disabled. Almost every one on there is something like "Gift Card for Wal-Mart/K-Mart for tolietries", clothing, "fun stuff", a Holiday Barbie... I flipped over almost every one of those cards and they all touched my heart. I eventually picked a 17 year old girl who asked for a shirt. I work at a nicer department store and between a sale, a coupon, and my discount got her a nice shirt for under $14. Not a single one of the gifts were for something outragous. Maybe it depends on the organization or the area.

I know when I used to work at K-Mart we were warned about people returning their kids' Christmas gifts for cash. We'd get very angry people when we had to give them Gift Cards for returns with out a reciept. It could be in many instances the 4 year olds asking for huge things were filled out by parents who are hoping to get the money for it by reselling or returning it. Or, it is like someone else said. They don't fully understand how much this stuff costs. If you don't have anything but you know other kids have it you might figure that people who make more money can easily afford these things. Advertising definately makes it seem that way...

Linsey Knerl's picture

You saved me from really having to say much at all.  Your comment was exactly my thoughts.  Kids think Christmas is a time for getting their heart's desire, with no concept of the value of the dollar.  We also need to remember that the kids are probably not told at the time of their "wishing" that they are indeed asking for charity.  I know that our local charities send out forms or contact churches and have them do the asking.  I doubt they preface their conversation to the children with, "Just so you know, your family is poor, and so anything you ask for will not actually come from Santa Clause.  Because you are poor.  So be realistic in your requests.  Remember you are poor."  

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
Looby

The angel trees in my home town don't have a specific wish on them, just age and gender and maybe a hobby eg a favourite sports team or "likes science".
I haven't found an angel tree in my new town so this year I opted for Child's Play, which links to amazon wishlists for Children's Hospitals. It was super handy cause I just added the items to my basket with the rest of my shopping and they got sent straight to the hospital.
I think I'll just give to the local foodbank with the rest of my Christmas charity money and not bother looking for an angel tree if that's the way they are going.

Maggie Wells's picture

Our community is definitely not a higher income bracket sort of place. The first year I had an iPod, I was the only one in town with one. (And I know this because people would say, 'you're the one with the iPod...').

I steer my kids away from high ticket items all the time. I even explained that this year Santa is on a tight budget because there isn't as much money in the world. They are super okay with that. Most of their toys have been eBay, thriftstore, on sale in the past. I find it interesting though, that I couldn't find a single kid on that tree in my price range.

We are doing a bunch of communal activities this year to help defray costs and giving where we can. But this idea of  expecting that one should have expensive items is a bit ludicrous. It reminds me of the time after I couldn't afford to live in San Francisco anymore and was commuting. Two guys were yelling at me to give them change and I hadn't had my coffee yet. One said how expensive SF was and that he needed my money. I agreed that SF was expensive. "That's why I moved!" I yelled back. Why should I pay to support him to live in a town I can no longer live in?

I feel the same way in this circumstance.

 

Margaret Garcia-Couoh

Guest's picture
Guest

Our culture/society conditions us to feel we're entitled to whatever we want: an iPod, an SUV, a flat screen HDTV, a $500,000 house, etc.

Can't afford it? Buy it on credit. "Just Do It." You won't have self esteem if you don't have things.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_ut93YYZu8

Guest's picture
Jessica

I was just going through a similar experience, having participated in my church's Christmas Angel project-same idea, pick a card for an anonymous child (or senior) and bring them a gift. The card came with three suggestions of gifts, and instructions to get a gift valued $20-25 so kids in the same family would get equally nice gifts. I picked a kid who had a card with "new jacket (size 10 in misses for a NINE year old child), MP3 player, and Hannah Montana "stuff". First, I was annoyed that whoever wrote out the cards wasn't with it enough to realize that a coat or MP3 player isn't even near the $20 range. Then, I was annoyed that a kid would ask for an MP3 player, wondering how huge this needy kid was to where an adult sized jacket (or what the deal with that), and then I felt bad for feeling ticked off. I ended up buying Hannah Montana books, at least I could encourage reading.

A few years ago I helped distribute toys (like Toys for Tots) to needy families and I never saw such a sense of entitlement. The idea that beggars can't be choosers was certainly put to rest. Parents tried to take more than they were supposed to and all sorts of things went on. I didn't feel appreciated or that the donations (of time and gifts) were making any difference.

I'm usually the one defending the idea that not everyone who is needy is a welfare queen/king, jerk, whatever, but I understand why people think that. My dad grew up with two working parents barely in the working class, and was very clear about how self-sufficiency and not taking charity was a big deal. So I grew up with the idea that being needy/poor meant you should be humble...now I just feel conflicted about my own feelings/efforts to help who are supposedly or truly needy.

In the future I'm going to be very cautious about who I give to-I will still give, but I want it to go to those who truly need it.

Guest's picture
Jesse

The biggest difference I've personally noticed between other young family members and our own daughter is that our daughter doesn't see commercials. So while my nephew asked his single mother for the $400 (or more!) kiddie dinosaur and/or a PSP, and my husband's young cousin (she's 8) asked for a TV and some Bratz dolls, our daughter asked for a Nutcracker (on sale half off at Macy's!), some candy, and some books. The mall Santa seemed surprised at her requests, and by the fact that she was polite about it.

What I've also personally noticed in my own family is that those relatives of ours (my husband and I) that are not as well-off as we are (and we're really not!) have cable TV, TVs in every room, game systems, all of them smoke (a pricey habit!), and they all eat fast food all the time. When they see something on TV that they WANT, they find a way to pay for it...yet they've never got money for car fixes, or the rent, or the outrageous electric and gas bills. We have saved LOADS of money just by not having TV with commercials. Our daughter has characters that she likes because we'll buy movies or cartoon series' (like, the Smurfs, or Mickey and Pluto, Bugs Bunny, etc), but we mostly make her play with dress-up clothes and her kitchen (that my parents bought her), we read books to her, and we go "window shopping" (where we don't buy anything, but just look) a lot - that's where she got the Nutcracker idea, and a short visit to YouTube allowed her to view the Nutcracker ballet as well.

What I'm getting at with the long-winded post (sorry!) is that these kids are asking for things that they: 1. See on TV commercials, and 2. See other kids have. They probably know they're poor, so they use this opportunity to feel like they're not so bad off, or maybe so they won't be teased, or because they think that EVERY kid whose family has more money has one. But I'll lay most of the blame on the TV commercials from my personal experience.

Guest's picture
Red Rebel

It’s hard for me to see the spirit of the season (generosity) replaced by something else (cynicism?), especially since I’m feeling this way myself lately.

Part of being generous is to give without judgment. You are judging when you decide for someone else what is good for them (or not.)

If you’re giving, you might be giving to someone that hasn’t learned the same financial lessons that you have. They may not spend wisely, they may not save wisely. In fact, that might be part of the reason that they’re in the situation that they’re asking for help.

In other parts of your life, do you feel that it is OK to judge people based on what they’ve learned or not learned? Aren’t there some lessons in your life that took you longer to learn than it should have? Are there people who tried to help you learn those lessons, but you didn’t learn until you were ready to?

These are the things I try to remember when I’m giving. Not everyone has the same background and experiences as I have. Can I judge them for making different decisions than I do, because they’ve learned different lessons?

It doesn’t mean that I give to everyone who asks. I just try to be less judgmental, since I haven’t walked their path. It helps me see more of the generous spirit of the season.

Guest's picture
Rando

I've read many of your posts on this subject and I can see both sides of the dime, but, bottom line, shouldn't all children, needy or not, be taught the real reason for the season? I'm not a religious fanatic, but I hate seeing children get so caught up in all the hype and commercialism so young in life. The writer makes valid observations regarding the "big wishing" being a huge turn-off, especially when you're actually having tough times in buying your own kids' gifts. I think it is a better life-lesson (at Christmas or anything throughout the year) to teach children to be grateful FOR WHATEVER THEY HAVE and to realize the season should not be about gifts, but about gratitude and love. So, I agree with the writer, I wouldn't buy a gift like these for these "needy" kids either.

Guest's picture

I've seen several of these types of events recently, whether it's the names of needy folks on a tree or a community center sponsoring a potluck meal and gift exchange for the needy, where the guidelines say to bring a wrapped gift valued at $10.

Sometimes they specify whether you should bring a child's gift, an adult gift and whether it should be gender specific or unisex. Beyond that, there are no requirements or expections from either the givers or receivers.

I'm more likely to contribute to these events than ones with specific wish list items.

I also prefer to donate food or money to food banks. The idea of a family not having food at Christmas (or any time) is much more heartbreaking to me than them not having gifts.

Guest's picture
Fianna

The wish list on my building's Christmas Tree shows the same thing. I have participated the last 2 years, but sort through the cards requesting exorbitant gifts that I would consider too expensive for my dear loved ones, and find the child that is asking for small items, items that I can picture the child will cherish. Last year a 15 year old girl asked for a comforter set. This, of course, made me cry and I picked a beautiful set that I hoped she loved. This year, a 5 year old boy is receiving Hot Wheels, Spider Man toys and a ridiculous load of like-new secondhand books.

I guess the old adage that you won't receive what you don't ask for holds true, but I cannot give anyone an Ipod, a DVD player, etc.

I love giving, but I give just as modestly as I live.

Guest's picture

I could not agree more with your posts and the commenters.

Esp the one that wrote about Commercials making children want things they cannot afford - we do not own or watch a TV any longer and I find that I want less things now. Now i just have to cut out the internet (as if I could!) and I could cut down on even more

Guest's picture
Leah

This was the first year my husband and I participated in the Angel Tree program by Prison Fellowship (www.angeltree.org)- not to be confused with the program of a similar name run by the Salvation Army. These gifts go to kids who have a parent (or both) in prison. Each gift is limited to a value of $20, and the tag came with a gift suggestion from the incarcerated parent. The parent chooses out of an idea catalog. I really like this program because you can give on behalf of another person who can't be there to give a present to his/her child at Christmas.

I picked up two tags- one for an MP3 player and another for Tinkerbell pajamas. I ended up at Walmart because there weren't any Tink Pjs in the girl's size at the Disney store. I am happy to report that you CAN get an MP3 player (a basic one, no frills), and some great pjs (and a light up shirt) all within budget. If you shop the ads (especially for electronics)lots of good deals can be found...I agree- use those coupons and sales..especially online!

All this to say, I agree- if you want to give, then do so! Find an organization that matches with your values and beliefs about giving. We chose to give this way because we want those kids to know the gift of Jesus is why we celebrate Christmas, and that their parents, although not present in person, care for them too. Finally, I second the previous comment- don't just give at this time of year, give all year, so you can be familiar everything that organization does and understand if that's really where you want the money to go. The more you know, the more confident you can feel about giving through that organization.

Guest's picture
JK

I have to agree with Donna, Lindsey, Red Rebel and maybe a few others I missed up there. It can be really disheartening to see specific examples of greed and entitlement. But I feel that if you choose to give, you need to hold yourself above the fray a bit and keep your own judgment and cynicism in check as much as you can.

Use your own very best self to give generously to the very best selves of the people you are giving to. At some point, whether you are rich or poor, whether you know it or not, someone has been unselfishly, non-judgmentally generous to you. This is a wonderful force in the universe, and should be nurtured as much as possible.

It doesn't mean buying an ipod. But it means a little cock-eyed optimism and a lot of just letting it go.

Guest's picture
Leslie

I really think this varies by group. Our church has an angel tree every year to buy gifts for kids of prisoners. The parent is asked to give us the child's name, gender, age and then to make 2 requests - one for clothes (give us sizes) and one for a toy/fun gift. So there are 2 angels for each child on our tree (one for clothes, one for a toy.) The angel tag I chose this year was for a 3 year old boy, and it gave me his size (4T.) I was able to find him 2 pairs of pants, 2 long sleeved shirts, a package of underwear and a package of socks for just under $25, which I wrapped up in a big box. I know the clothes won't excite a 3 year old, but it will excite his caregiver, I'm sure, and I know someone else will buy him whatever toyw as on his toy angel. The coordinator for this program is clear in the guidelines to the parent filling out the info that they need to be reasonable and practical in their requests if they want it filled. The most extravagant thing I've seen given was a bicycle last year.

Guest's picture
M.I.A.

It's a wish list not a needs list.
Even if the parents are pushing for them to aim big- why shouldn't they?

Guest's picture
Guest

The one they put up at my husbands company breaks my heart every year. Kids ask for simple toys and warm clothes. The ones asking for a jacket or a pair of shoes just makes my heart hurt. Last year we bought a gift for a little girl (Dora the Explorer sleeping bag) and a Lego truck for a little boy. This year we're going to pick three kids and give the donations to them in the name of my husbands grand parents who don't need a physical gift.
But I agree that big ticket items are beyond ridiculous and I would protest as well.

Guest's picture
Guest

...at work, and I picked out 2 toy gifts for a boy and a girl. I supplemented the requested, popularly branded, gifts with crayons and a couple of coloring books for the 4 yo girl, plus markers and a sketch pad for the 8 yo boy, plus an age-appropriate story book for each child.

My DH is a teacher, and has told me that kids come to pre-K without ever having seen a book, so I thought I'd spend a little extra money to help out these kids. Not reading to little kids, and not giving them access to books is just plain sad, and makes me want to cry.

Tonight I have to wrap the gifts and bring them in to put under the tree. It is a really nice tradition, as long as the kids want reasonable gifts. I hope the kids like what I got, and that the families aren't offended by the extras (and that they don't try to return them!).

However, another charity that my workplace helps with gives gifts to all family members, and the dad apparently asked for "snowmobile gear", so he'll be the last family member we spend money on. If you can are able to and can afford to ride a snowmobile, you can work to support your family. We may be switching charities for next year.

Guest's picture
Karen

so...poor people can't have fun...maybe he was given a snowmobile and he fixed it...maybe it's a form of transportation in the bad weather...lots of maybes...
on our local 'freecycle' I see lots of things "I" think are too greedyish...but I don't know the back story...and I have since learned ..things are not always as they appear (or sound). Merry Christmas.

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm actually surprised at the comments and this post. I'm a recent college grad and just started my first job ever. I'm not made of money. In fact I would like an I-Pod for myself but haven’t as its a bit pricy and I’m paying student loans off. But I know that I want an I-Pod and when I was younger I wanted a Nintendo and other expensive things. Sometimes I got them but more often than not I didn't. But what didn't change was that I still wanted those things. I still want them. So is a needy child not supposed to want things because he is needy? Is he or she not supposed to wish during the holidays or hope because their parents can't afford to fulfill them? I would rather they be honest about what they want whether it’s an Xbox or an IPod then lie and say they want socks just so someone in line at the bank can buy someone a pair of socks and feel good about themselves. Helping the needy shouldn't be about you but about the people you are helping. If you can't afford to then don't but don't get mad at someone less fortunate than you.

Guest's picture
Guest

My thoughts exactly!

Guest's picture
Guest

My father suggested we get my niece and nephew a Wii or xBox this year, even though they hadn't asked for such things -- they're 4 and 5 years old... uh uh, I had to discourage it... first I don't want them hooked on that stuff, stuck in front of a TV -- eventually they'll get around to asking, but since they still like going outside to play, I figure we should draw that out as long as possible.. and the number one reason they shouldn't get that stuff is THEY'RE TOO EXPENSIVE!!

So for kids, who have parents that can't even buy them clothes or shoes, I don't think so -- I don't necessarily blame the kids, they're influenced by classmates and the entire consumerism attitude, but in this case my mother would have stepped in and told me what I needed to ask for... not what I wanted to ask for...

I guess our family is lucky in a way, or we're just out of touch - I think my niece and nephew's perspective comes from the fact that we don't put much importance on these fancy expensive items... even though I'm a real gadget queen, with ipods and the lot. So this year their Christmas list came out just as I think it should, a barbie doll, a race car... and they both strangely requested a magic butterfly -- now where do you get one of those?

Guest's picture
Amy K.

My husband's family gave to JPI this year rather than exchanging Hanukkah gifts. The gifts requested by the families were in line with the prison Angel tree program mentioned above: warm winter clothes, general toy ideas. My husband and I agreed on a limit of $30 per person, and went a wee bit over buying Legos for one boy, but we're Lego fans ourselves! At Christmas, we set a limit of $50 for gifts to each other, so it seemed a reasonable cap for people we did not know.

After reading the original post and the ensuing comments, it sounds like the charity you choose to donate through plays a key part. I'll have to check the Salvation Army angel tree in the office cafeteria, and see if the tags are as expensive as some of the wish lists above.

Guest's picture
Guest

Let's be blunt.

Odds are the 2 year old requesting expensive electronics is a parent or other relative.

Who plan on either taking it for themselves, or selling it to fund their daily vice (smoking, drinking, or something worse)

The extended family of 12 our group sponsors has young children that will be getting things like soccer balls and dolls, and mostly clothing for the adults.

Cash gifts are used to pay their utilities.

But no cash or near-cash equivalents (e.g. high-value electronics) are given to the family.

Guest's picture
Anonymous Coward

I would never ever participate in an angel tree where specific items are requested. The whole point, in my opinion, is that these children are so needy that they will have NOTHING for Christmas if they don't get some help. Anything is better than nothing, so they should just be happy with what they get and not ask for something specific.

If you want to buy an Xbox or ipod, go right ahead. If you want to buy a $5 doll that's fine too. The Christmas spirit is about giving what your heart tells you to give - the dollar value is irrelevant.

Several years ago we were blown away by the generosity of a family at our church. The parents were out of work for several years and the kids were on the list for getting donations. The dad finally got a job, and although the family is no longer in need of donations they are still what I would consider poor.

The children were told they would each be getting a few presents, but that they weren't much because there wasn't any more money. The kids then decided they would give ALL THEIR PRESENTS to a needy family. The parents were touched, but explained that if they did thet, they would have nothing for themselves. The kids replied that they had always gotten presents, even when times were bad, and felt like they could miss out for one year.

That's what they did - they gave everything they had to a needy family. I think they got the best gift possible - they truly understand the spirit of giving.

Guest's picture
kaida

I agree with the Guest above, who wrote:

______
I still want them. So is a needy child not supposed to want things because he is needy? Is he or she not supposed to wish during the holidays or hope because their parents can't afford to fulfill them?
_______

Keep in mind, most kids are hoping. Many of us do without all year long. When I was younger, Christmas was the time to hope, that maybe you would get that one nice thing that would take you through the rest of the year. I understand the sentiments about kids being materialistic or overly commercialized, but again, it can be really alienating to be left out of what all your peers are doing and talking about, day in and day out. I started working at the age of twelve so I could finally stop feeling so alienated, and while I am still not much for brand names and logos (which marked how many times you wore a shirt), there are two feelings I will never forget:

1. The first time I received exactly what I wanted for Christmas (a portable cd player I used the whole year)

2. The first time I bought exactly what I wanted with my own money.

Give kids some more credit - at this point in their lives, they have to ask for what they want and have little idea of cost. Most will be aware of their circumstances soon enough.

Guest's picture
Guest

Many people want to give but can't because requests are so pricey. (We have had the same issue at church.) I would love to see every child have all of their wishes fulfilled, but my pocketbook will not allow it. My kids are getting one present in the $30-40 range each and a couple of small things (including necessities like PJs and underwear). We can't afford the Wii that our oldest son requested or the ride-on dinosaur that our youngest son requested. Likewise, we cannot afford these for others, either. We want to help but are unable to because the "requests" are WAY out of our price range... not because we think these kids don't deserve them.

Guest's picture
Guest

Look, there are greedy jerks in this world. There are people who feel entitled to everything and work for nothing. There are people who would use their children to get things for themselves.

There are also good people struggling in hard times. There are kids who dream and hope and wish... and who don't have conscientious caregivers to teach them the true meaning of anything. There are people in need.

You can't often tell which is which from a card on a tree, and even if you can you should have the same mandate as any other time... to try to see the best in people and focus on the good. If you can give, find a way to give that you can believe in. That's all there is to it. Don't let the rest poison it for you.

Guest's picture
Jim

Its too bad that the charity or bank who setup that tree didn't limit the value of the gifts. They should really set the price value of the gifts at a reasonable level around $25 or less. Our company usually has a gift tree type program and the gifts items are always in the $10-20 range.

Guest's picture
Chelle

"What child has ever wanted jeans and a shirt for Christmas?"
I did, and still do. I am (and always have been) happy just to get something. To know that someone thought enough of me to get me something, anything. The problem, it seems, is that more and more people aren't happy with the idea of getting a gift because it's a gift that someone decided to give. They HAVE to have a gift theses days. It's a crime if you don't get lots and lots of stuff. If it's a low ticket item (a $10 shirt or a $5 book) forget it. Who wants those things anymore? No. It's Wii's, Xboxes, PSP's, and more.

Sure, we've spent a little more on gifts for each other here (my fiance and I) the last couple of years. But we buy stuff that we need. Table & chair set. Clothes. That sort of thing. Last year I bought my mom a book by her favorite author, and will probably do the same this year. I got clothes (which I needed, ;) and was thankful for) and a gift card to our local grocery store.

EVERYONE needs to be thankful they get what they get. Not just the poor or needy. You, me, the lady down the road. EVERYBODY needs to remember that the holidays shouldn't be about getting expensive presents. They should be about spending time with family and friends.

Guest's picture
Sherelle

Wow, this article really struck me. It seems like we make needy kids feel more needy when we focus on what they don't have and what they want. It's terrible that their desire to just "be normal" and keep up with the Joneses is turning off the goodwill of others.

Here's a blogpost I wrote about another take on wishlist trees.

Guest's picture
Amy

I never really thought those angel trees would have expensive items like ipods on there. I'd never even ask my own parents for one. We've known for years that our "santa" has a $100 limit for each kid.

For something like an ipod, I wonder if the kids say ipod because it's like the scotch tape of mp3 players . I'm guessing if a little girl got a $20 Bratz MP3 player she might be just as excited. That said, it does frustrate me that parents would let their kids request such expensive things from complete strangers.

Our office here is donating to Toys For Tots. It's nice because you can just pick a toy in your price range and the organization will make sure it is given to a needy boy or girl. That way, you can pick how much you want to spend and get something that you really want to give a child.

Guest's picture
Jesse

To add to what I posted earlier, I talked to my grandmother today (she just turned 75!) and she said that while she had no problem with kids wanting stuff, at the same time, she doesn't think those children have any idea what poor or needy means - and I have to agree. They're on the tree, chance are good that their parents are struggling to get them gifts. What good does it do to ask for something electronic - they'll need someplace to plug it in, and/or have to have them constantly plugged in - and the LAST thing a parent who's struggling needs is a higher electricity bill.

She said that when no-one had any money (like when she was younger), they knew that asking meant that someone else would do without for them. And she said that she's thinking that kids either don't know, or don't care, what it might cost someone else when they ask. They (my grandparents) try not to get bummed by everything they hear on the news (on the radio, in the newspaper, or one of their THREE fuzzy rabbit-ears channels!), but they have been giving money left and right for causes, and to see trees (because they have, too, in Missouri!) that ask for high-priced items makes them wonder how truly bad off some of these families are.

Guest's picture
Allie

I find this about as surprising as I find rude comments from bell ringers when you refuse to donate. We live in the Land of Entitlement, and this is simply yet another example of terrible behaviour exhibited as a result.

Andrea Karim's picture

We were not allowed to buy used things for the kids at our office "angel tree". I'm well aware of how inexpensive a guitar can be if you buy used.

I don't think being outraged about the cost of the gifts that the "kids" are asking for is a matter of hoping that poor children would behave like Dickensian street urchins who are grateful for a scrap of bread. It's a matter of being asked, as a total stranger, to pony up $100 or more for a gift from an 8 year-old that you don't know. There's the chance that you might be being duped by an opportunistic parent or other adult. 

It's like those anecdotes that you hear about panhandlers who live in nice condos in New York City - untrue save for one or two (if that) outrageous examples, but still enough to fill people with rage when they think about handing over their money to someone who doesn't NEED it, but just WANTS it.

You can argue that people should give without caring about what happens to their money, but that's just not the way the human mind works, for the most part. People want to know that when they give away their money, it is worth the sacrifice. That's why so many of those Save the Children-style charities provide you with detailed information about the child that you send hundreds of dollars to each year.

Guest's picture
Guest

Firstly, I too was struck by how greedy our local angel tree seemed this year. As opposed to years past the tags had requests to pick at least two items and most items were not cheap.

Secondly, Toys for tots seems to have a good toy exchange and around here lots of the cub scout packs collect. Many of us buy stuffed animals from Kohl's $5.00 special animals that also support children's education and hospital funds. Double giving is great!

Lastly, it made me remember a book that I had read about a boy who always wanted something special for Christmas but kept getting something else. It is online at http://www.soentpiet.com/houston1.htm

I do not think that anyone is denying that the kids have big wishes, however there is not an unlimited amount of money around to fill them all. In today's economy when people look at the trees and see items that they can not afford for themselves requested they feel that they have to pass on giving. But if they have supported angel trees in the past then passing probably makes them a bit sad and annoyed that the tag did not say just Boy size 12 and leave the picking to them.

Guest's picture
Molly

I'm a social worker. It's been my experience that a lot of these "Angel Tree" types of requests from the needy are usually filled out by staff of the agencies that provide the names. Since I had a caseload of about 50 kids that I was required to put up requests for, and so did everyone else, we just went around asking each other what a 10-yr-old might want. Those requests are not filled out by the kids, and seldom are they made by the parents. Generally, someone just has a list of genders and ages. It's a very tedious task to think up things that kids might want, so sooner or later, someone starts putting down "ipod" for everyone of a certain age. The reasonable requests for things like "warm coat" are probably done the same way; I know I've written that down a lot. For people in my profession, Christmas is quite a chore, and we don't carefully interview each child to find out what he or she really dreams of for Christmas. It is perfectly acceptable to ignore the requests and just give something you think a child of that age might enjoy; so what if Tommy or Sally doesn't get what they asked for? I didn't usually get what I asked for as a kid, and I suspect neither did you.

Guest's picture
Guest

A few people above have commented that "poor kids don't need an iPod." Um, what child *does* need an iPod? Do rich kids need an iPod? Are your needs determined by how much your parents make? Is an iPod a need if your parents make six figures, but a want if they are on public assistance?

Guest's picture
Marcia

My son is 2.5. He wants an Ipod. I kid you not. Now, I have one, that I use pretty much just at the gym. And we hook it up at home and listen to music.

I bought my dh one for Christmas, because his mp3 player is so only it only fits like 50 songs.

Why does my 2.5 year old want an Ipod? Because his three year old friend at daycare has one. Yep. Three. (He's almost four, but has had it for 6 months or so.)

Yeah, kids don't know what things cost. You can argue that. But the parents should make sure the "wish list" has a variety of costs on there. Maybe you'll get lucky and someone will buy you the Ipod. But if that's all on your list, you probably get nothing. Maybe a $20 gift is appropriate to put on the list too.

My mom buys gifts for some neighbors who live in a drafty trailer (with duct tape keeping the windows sealed). They are so excited.

I don't see a needy kid wanting an Ipod to be any different from the college student to charges it on a Visa and takes two years to pay for it.

I donate money to the food bank and the women's shelter.

Guest's picture
Ms. Pants

The issue I have with the iPod request is that to operate an iPod, one must have a computer. Do these families have computers at home filled with music? An xbox requires a television and game cartridges (or whatever they are now) that aren't cheap either. What good is giving a kid an iPod if she can't ever load music on it?

With each passing year, I become more and more humbug about [insert winter holiday of your choice here]. It seems this time of year is supposed to be about giving and being happy and thankful and all that. But that's just a thin coat of icing over a thick fruitcake (ick!) of greed, entitlement, and consumerism. It completely sours me on the whole October-January season.

And while I'm lucky enough to have an iPod (an unsolicited gift from my parents a few years ago), I have to say that one of the best gifts I ever received for chrismasolstikwaanzika was a stack of slotted paper plates from my brother's family. They were tight on money but wanted everyone to unwrap something from them. I hate my food touching. I thought it was incredibly brilliant!

Guest's picture
Slinky

"What child has ever wanted jeans and a shirt for Christmas?"

Me, that's who. Growing up, clothes were hand me downs from cousins who were all much bigger than me. I was always dressed in seriously over sized stuff. Or even better, I would have loved a winter jacket. I never had a winter jacket I wasn't embarrassed to be seen in until I bought my own when I was 18. And I can think of at least two occasions where I was teased mercilessly because of them.

People are upset by this, not because kids want this stuff, but because these trees are supposed to be for kids whose parents can't afford any presents. If they've made it past basic necessities for life, social embarrassment from peers, and all the way down to high priced electronics...these families probably aren't that badly off. They must have heat and decent clothing to wear. They probably have a tv and possibly even a computer. And those aren't the kind of people we were expecting to see on these trees. That's why people are upset.

Guest's picture
Tes

Every year at Christmas my RC parish (admittedly a pretty wealthy one) sponsors 2 or 3 poor parishes (almost always inner city Philadelphia parishes) and if you choose to participate you are expected to buy gifts for the whole family and their Christmas dinner.

We've partiicpated for TEN years and I've never once seen even one outrageous gift on the list. One year one of the 16 yo girls asked for a warm blanket (!)

The list almost always runs to a generic: "clothes (sizes are given,) toys, books, toiletries, games."

I'm sorry to hear others have had such a poor experience but participating in this program is the highlight of our Christmas!

And last year I even got a thank-you note that was beyond lovely. (The program is meant to be anonymous but the mom must have gotten my name and address off one of the boxes in which we packed the gifts and food.)

I'm at a loss to eplain the difference between our experience and that of the other "voices" on this blog.

Julie Rains's picture

I think there are 2 main differences: 1) the sponsoring organization sets the tone for the gifts and expectations on both sides (giving and receiving) and 2) there is an established relationship among the parishes, not just because of the Christmas program but a faith connection that is present throughout the year and not just once a year. 

Agencies or groups that are good stewards will screen their clients, understand client needs, and communicate those needs to existing and potential donors in a graceful manner in a way that encourages compassion rather than judgment. I hope that is not too philosophical but a practical explanation that there needs to be understanding on both sides.

Guest's picture
Beckyanne

My husband and I do not do the angel trees in town after we found out that they put the same names on several trees in town. If each taker buys 2-3 gifts that could be quite a haul for any child! We do participate in a teen angel program run by the junior high school in town. The teachers nominate children they have noticed that need things then the lists are given out. A list of people willing to take a name is maintained by the school. Also the kids are "asked" to stay after school the last day to help "clean the rooms". a local resturant donates food so they have a small party and the other kids do not know that they are receving these gifts. No limit is set and the things the teachers suggest are heartbreaking like shoes, coats, gloves, even proper fitting underware for young ladies etc. one year we received a thank you sent through the principle at the school. We knew we had a set of twins to buy for and they needed coats. By using coupons and saturday sales I was able to get each of them a warm jacket, jeans, shirts, sweaters, make up sets, hair trims sets, an inexpensive watch and some other things for less than $100 each. the letter told us about the best Christmas they had ever had and that they had new coats - which they had never had. Also that they had never had clothes "like everyone else wears". that got to me! Sad thing is we have to have the tags marked 'no cash refunds', can not give gift cards or cash and have to remove any price tag to prevent the parents from returning for cash for drugs etc. that is really sad. The upside- our local goody's store manager often throws in a free item or additional discount when he finds out what we are buying for. So this is my passion and will be for many years. A baby with no gifts is sad but not as sad as a young teen returning to school after break and having to say "I got nothing".

Guest's picture
Guest

I am a teacher in low income school. Every year my school participates in the Josh Heupel #14 Foundation "angel tree" set up at the local Wal-Mart. Each teacher picks a boy and girl from the class that is in need. We help the children pick appropriate gift choices which consist of 2 clothing & 2 toy options. Most kids ask for pretty basic things as their peers do not have these expencive items either. I give to this foundation each year because I know that someone like me has recognized that there is a family need. This year the teachers had the pleasure of wrapping the gifts and I was amazed to see things like basketballs, warm coats, and shoes. In the end each child gets two clothing gifts and two toy gifts. The best part is that Wal-Mart actually donated any item that was not given by a donor (even those tags that are taken and not returned.). I do not consider my children spoiled - but four gifts, two of which are clothes, is not too much for Christmas. I do have to admit that my girls get three gifts from Santa since Jesus only received three at his birth. They do get more from mom and dad. Maybe the key is that low cost gifts are valued as much as more expensive ones at our home.
Thank you for listening and I encourage everyone to have that Christmas spirit all year long.

Maggie Wells's picture

today instead. Lots of mail to mail tomorrow. tomorrow we are going to a mystery baby shower;  mother is alone. thanks for all the great ideas in the thread. i still don't think that any child regardless of parental income should be asking for high ticket items, but that's just me.

Margaret Garcia-Couoh

Andrea Karim's picture

I really feel that you're misunderstanding the outrage people are feeling over this issue. It's not a matter of believing that the poor should be grateful for whatever they get - honestly, it's smart giving to want to know that your gift is practical and useful. Blithely handing over whatever a stranger anonymously requests doesn't necessarily make you a great person.

 

Guest's picture
Tracy

"it's smart giving to want to know that your gift is practical and useful."

By your values, Andrea. Not by everyone's. Do you insist that your own children are only allowed to ask Santa for that which is practical and useful?

Somehow, I don't think so.

As far as "misunderstanding the outrage," that's quite possible. Let me take a closer look and see if I see what you see:

Number of times (as of this comment) that the author or commenter suggests that, if a poor kid wants a name-brand present that any other middle-class or upper-class kid might ask for like a Wii, it must be because someone else put him up to it, or it must be a con artist at work: 11

Number of times that these same parents were accused of hoping to sell the child's angel tree gift in order to fund a bad habit or vice: 2

Number of times the sentiment "Poor people should get what they are given and be grateful for whatever it is" has been explicitly expressed: 6

Number of times the sentiment "A poor child should 'know better' than to ask for [Thing X] for Christmas" or "Children who ask for gifts that cost over [the dollar amount that meets my own value system as acceptable for a poor child] therefore has entitlement issues" has been explicitly expressed: 13

Number of times the sentiment "I wouldn't buy it for my kid, so this other kid is somehow wrong for asking for it" has been explicitly expressed: 8

Number of times the author or commenter has explicitly assumed that the needy child making the angel tree request knows exactly the value of the item he or she is requesting, and/or knows that the gifts are coming from charitable donations -- ergo, is hoping to blatantly abuse the goodwill of others: 8

Number of times that a commenter has stated that he or she plans to reduce or otherwise change her charitable giving this holiday, based on Margaret's post and the ensuing discussion: 2

If anyone wants to feel outrage over the fact that Margaret's bank didn't do a very good job of organizing their giving tree, well, that's understandable. But that's not what she said, is it? She blamed the needy people, for being so entitled. In fact, she wanted to slap them, remember?

If the point were that the bank's Christmas tree didn't work for her, and so she's off to find somewhere else to donate... well, that's understandable. Those who give to others should do so in a way that fits their own values.

But that's not what she said, is it? Oh, sure, she came back much later and said in a comment, "Yes, we gave somewhere else." But that's too little, too late. The original screed from her blog post is that she's not giving to anyone -- the entitled "needy" children just touched too much of a nerve, you see.

If the point were about how commercial and advertising-driven the holidays have become, and how sad it is that all kids want iPods and XBoxes instead of books and clothes and candy and simple, inexpensive toys... regardless of their parents' socioeconomic status... well, that's understandable.

But that's not what is being said here, is it? Instead it's all about the disgusting entitlement of needy people.

(Oh, excuse me... I mean, "needy" people. Mustn't forget those little quotation marks that passive-aggressively insure that every reader knows that you don't really believe they're needy, after all.)

So, yes, I'm pretty sure I do understand the outrage that I'm seeing, from both the original blog post and a lot of the "me too" comments. And I think it comes from a sense of paternalistic insecurity, and a need to judge others in order to elevate oneself. If that's the spirit that gets you all through the holidays, then do whatever you need to.

Frankly, there were kernels of some positive conversation to be had here. Too bad that's not the direction that Margaret chose to go when she vented her spleen about the "needy" children.

Andrea Karim's picture

I make a distinction between charitable giving and giving to people that I know. And I don't give expensive gifts to people I don't know unless (1) they request it and (2) I have reason to believe that it will improve their life in some substantial way (i.e. not cause them more problems than joy, like an iPod is wont to do).

Those who give to others should do so in a way that fits their own values.

Well, there you go. No need to go assigning terms like "paternalistic insecurity" to it.

Guest's picture
Tracy

>> "Those who give to others should do so in a way that fits their own values.

>> "Well, there you go. No need to go assigning terms like 'paternalistic insecurity' to it."

Did you read my previous comment, Andrea? Did you not comprehend the sheer numbers of people in this discussion, including the original poster, who have made blatant and negative value judgments against poor people based on something so ethereal and inscrutable as their Christmas wishes?

Margaret Garcia-Couoh didn't say, "I don't care for how the bank chose to handle their giving tree, so I'm electing to give in some other way that better fits my values." I could have stomached that.

What she did say is that she knows better than someone else what they actually want for Christmas... that the parents of those "needy" children likely put them up to it... that the "needy" children have entitlement problems... that she can't believe the "nerve" of "those people"... and that she wishes she could slap them.

I'm sorry, Andrea, that you're offended at the offense I'm taking here. But I'm calling it like I see it (as many others have in this thread): if one doesn't agree with another person's Christmas wish, the only gracious response is to walk away, and seek a gift request that fits in with your own particular value system. But do not publicly denigrate those people, or proclaim that you know what is best for them, as if God Himself had made you the arbiter of socially-appropriate material desire.

You seemed to take umbrage that I charged the "poor people have gotten so uppity and greedy these days" camp with paternalistic insecurities. Frankly, I think it's less offensive to assume that this post and the ensuing me-too comments reflect individual insecurities, than the alternative:

It is well-documented that elitism and classism often start just like this: with seemingly-innocuous bourgeois remarks about "those people" and "what they deserve"... ideas like those expressed by Margaret.

So you tell me, Andrea - which is it? Are there some mild and hopefully unintentional paternalistic insecurities at play here?

Or is it that we're seeing a really disturbing trend of classism push its way to the fore -- and sold as socially acceptable to a bunch of anonymous proponents all because it's being publicly pitched under the self-congratulatory guise of frugal living?

If you can't afford to give more, don't give more. But do not pass judgment on others in order to justify your own decisions.

>> "(i.e. not cause them more problems than joy, like an iPod is wont to do)."

That you don't see any problem with deciding on behalf of complete strangers that an MP3 player will bring problems to their lives, instead of joy, is nothing if not paternalistic. I encourage you to look up the definition of the word if you aren't sure.

Guest's picture
martha in mobile

After examining my paternalistic insecurities, I realize that I prefer to give to people who have similar values to my own. I was raised by parents who were children during the Great Depression, so I was imbued with their antiquated ideas and values. I'm good with that. Thanks, y'all, for helping me to accept my self-congratulatory frugality!

And a very happy Solstice To All!

Guest's picture
Guest

Right on, Tracy. I applaud your posts.

Our building did an adoption thing for needy families this year, and there was a kid who wanted a backpack and crayons and hand sanitizer (!), and there was a kid who wanted a Nintendo DS, and everything in between.

One thing it might help to keep in mind if you're upset about the "entitlement" that some of "those people" seem to feel, toward having things that are nicer than you think they deserve: Some of these kids are in quite dire situations (really!), and when much of your life is desperate, it's easy to see short-term gratification as more important than long-term -- *especially* if you are young.

What I mean by that is, if your home life is a mess and your parents are always fighting and sometimes you don't have money for food and your electricity gets shut off every few months, does it make sense for you to want something that's awesome but impractical, like an iPod? Or does it make sense for you to want shoes or a blanket or something like that?

I think the posters here would say it makes more sense for you to want the shoes or blanket, and it probably does. But what you *actually* want is something awesome, something outside the realm of your normal life, and something that helps you forget how distressing or frustrating the rest of your life is.

Everyone who's ever been on a diet, paid off debt, or otherwise restricted an area of their lives is well aware that total deprivation can lead to similar impulses. Deny yourself dessert for long enough and you won't find yourself daydreaming about a single generic Oreo; you'll be thinking about cheesecake and homemade pie. Austerity is no fun; being "rewarded" austerely is also no fun if you have no say in your circumstances; and at Christmas especially I think it's sad to begrudge people their wishes.

Guest's picture
Cori

I was turned off on the gifts for the needy thing when I was a teenager. I have a sister a few years older than me that had kids really young. By her choice she was emancipated (legally disowned) when she was 15 to move out on her; already had a 2 yr old son and didn't want to follow our parent’s rules…obviously. She dropped out of school and was on welfare, so technically she qualified as 'needy'. However our parents were upper middle class; and trust me, her and her kids got STACKS of gifts from the family. She still chose to sign up and get on every 'free' gift/tree program she could...and then she would complain about the gifts! She would also get free blocks of cheese from somewhere then sell them to mom so she could have some cash. The scams were endless and really upset me. This was back in the late 70's but if we had iPods then she would have requested one.

I agree with the comments that a lot of the smaller kids don’t understand the cost of items. The older kids may feel that folks that stop and get starbucks everyday can afford to get them an iPod. The ones that ask for an iPod for a baby/toddler, yep, those are probably scamming parents like my sister was. Just buy something else for the child…a child that young really will like what you get them.

As I grew up I realized what they do with it or what they ask for is not the point of giving. The point of giving is to show unconditional support of another.

There are countless agencies and services you can support. Don’t like the tree, fine, find one that matches your budget and a group that touches your heart…and then go with them to deliver the gifts. You may be surprised by the true gratitude the recipient shows, even when they don’t get the iPod.

Andrea Karim's picture

I don't think anyone here is suggesting that charity should be ignored during the holidays - I certainly give, and give generously, but I give to organizations that do work that I see as essential. I honestly don't care if it's judgmental of me to wonder if people who are asking for charity should get whatever it is they ask for. Also, I'm pretty sure that I'm permitted to feel put off by such requests (and yes, permitted to post a rant to that effect on a web site).

And yes, Tracy, I've read each of your comments but simply don't have the free time to respond to such a detailed analysis of the original post, dozens of other comments, and opinions about the acceptability of Margaret sounding off on this topic. Thanks, though, for urging me to learn the meaning of 'paternalistic'. I now have a new trait that I can add to my online dating profile.

Andrea Karim's picture

Cori, I like what you are saying about giving. It's an ideal (unconditional giving) that is really quite beautiful. I'm just not there yet.

Guest's picture
JK

I posted earlier, but for those of you who were voices of true charity - thank you.

And I bought 2 Ipods for the giving tree. I'm well aware that they might not go where I might hope, for all the reasons above. But I get the gift of thinking they might go to the young equivalent of some of the posters above and be a special moment in a young life.

And that's an awfully big return for me, so thanks posters on both sides of this issue for prodding me to know what I wanted to do.

Guest's picture
Tracy

>> "I honestly don't care if it's judgmental of me to wonder if people who are asking for charity should get whatever it is they ask for. Also, I'm pretty sure that I'm permitted to feel put off by such requests (and yes, permitted to post a rant to that effect on a web site)."

And yet, Andrea, you've continuously tried to talk other people out of judging you, and also continuously tried to justify your actions and statements. (Remember, you're the one who engaged me directly -- by saying that I seemed to "not understand" the outrage going on here, when I briefly stated in respond to Donna's comment that I didn't find the anti-iPod camp very charitable.)

So, I'm sure you can understand why it's a wee bit hard to swallow that "you honestly don't care". You're permitted to feel and rant however you like... and I'm permitted to disagree with that rant and those feelings.

>> "And yes, Tracy, I've read each of your comments but simply don't have the free time to respond to such a detailed analysis of the original post, dozens of other comments, and opinions about the acceptability of Margaret sounding off on this topic."

And yet again, clearly you do have plenty of free time to continue participating in the discussion. You're just choosing to make time only for the argument that you personally want to engage in.

(Which is fine, it's how the internet works every single day. It just makes your position ring disingenuous.)

>> "It's an ideal (unconditional giving) that is really quite beautiful. I'm just not there yet."

To me, this is the most important thing that's been said so far. Admitting that any particular position in this discussion is about one's own personal values -- rather than trying to ascribe it to Society's Preferred Moral Standard -- is the self-aware response.

It isn't always fun to say, "Yeah, here's how I feel, and I don't claim to be perfect, and I do think Thing X is wrong or selfish or greedy, and that's just one person's opinion", but it's the intellectually honest one.

Guest's picture

Wow, what a wonderful give and take of ideas. You all have made me think about my gift giving at Christmas. And I've also been thinking back to my childhood when gifts were lean. I sure can remember being disappointed when I didn't get the newest, "in" thing because money was scarce in my family.

By the way, I had no idea that toddlers used iPods! I must be so out of touch!

Guest's picture
Leia

My preference is to buy simple gifts so I can spread what I have to more people. I'd rather buy 5 $20 gifts than a $100 iPod. And I think it's sad that people are limited by these trees to iPod or nothing.

Everyone makes a decision by their own values when deciding how to spend their charity dollars. That's what makes the number of charity organizations so great - local vs. international, big wishes vs. basic needs, medical vs. the arts... there are a lot of places we can give. Not all of us can give to everything, so we make choices. Belittling someone for making the choice they do to *give to someone* is only going to take the joy out of their giving. Let's support each other. While I don't agree with buying the expensive gifts personally, some of you do and can do so. I buy the socks, you buy the iPod, and two kids are happy.

Guest's picture
Margaret

I've been scrolling through the comments and have thus felt the need to add my own. God bless the interwebs. Anyway.

My family had a particularly hard year one Christmas and we came home after the dinner at my grandparents to find a rather large lump of presents sitting on the front step. To this day, I have no idea where they came from and thus I can only assume they were from Santa. (Perhaps it is worth while to note that I'm 22 at this point)

And when we opened them on Christmas morning, these certainly weren't second hand gifts or anything remotely practical, and definitely not cheap. But what they were, were things that me and my sisters had been wanting for *years* but my family simply hadn't been able to afford them. And never in my life has a Christmas meant more to me. It wasn't the fact that the items were expensive, it was that someone (or Santa) had cared enough to select a gift for each of us that was truly at the top of our wish lists, and had been for quite some time. The memory of that has stayed with me and will do for the rest of my life, and I hope at some point, when I'm done being a poor student, that I can give another family that.

We can get into arguments all day about a sense of entitlement or not even providing your kids with extravagant gifts. That's fine, not everyone can do that, nor should everyone be expected to. But what really is so wrong about the poor kids, who are always the one's wearing hand-me-down clothes, being looked down upon by their peers because they don't have the right toys, or electronics, or whatever, to wish for Christmas for something that will make them feel more normal and will genuinely touch their hearts.

I always appreciate getting the things I need when I need them, but there is something extra special about getting something you really want. Doesn't hurt a kid to dream anyway.

Guest's picture
dave

If I may offer a different perspective. When I was a child, some decades ago, for about five years pretty much every single Christmas present I got came from programs like this. People weren't quite so conscious of name brands then, but I still remember the feel of clothes that didn't quite fit you right, or itched quite a bit by the end of the day, or even smelled kinda funny, or weird canned food (spiced octopus; we were terrified to open it and one day there wasn't anything else to eat and we scarfed it down; I became violently ill at about three AM). Don't misunderstand me; I will always be grateful for the generosity shown by the people who gave us stuff; I am more grateful to the people who gave us stuff that they would have liked, instead of crap they were just trying to get rid of.

Every year, I was asked what I wanted, and every year I asked for a stingray bicycle. One year I got somebody's rusted old Pee-Wee Herman style bicycle, which is one of those "gifts" that, I expect, turn children into acquisitive adults ("as god as my witness, I will never lack for money again") but it was wonderful being able to bike instead of walk and I roared around town pretty vigorously, despite the abuse from what my sister and I referred to as the "rich kids" until the handlebars just snapped off one day a few months later.

And then, one year, when I was eleven years old, I got a brand-new Huffy stingray bicycle. It was spectacular, top-of-the-line. Even the rich kids liked to ride it. It was freakin' magical. It's the kind of thing that might allow a fully functioning adult to emerge out of what was a rather demanding childhood.

So, here's the thing: Buy the dream gift for the kid who's begging. Or don't. It's your choice. But please, for the love of God, don't lecture anybody about how terrible it is to dream of perfection, to respond to the question, "what would you really like?" with an truly honest answer. You know what makes me sad at the giving tree? Seeing requests for nothing but boots and hats. That's mom, desperate to keep the kids healthy for one more year, waiting for things to turn around. That ain't the kid, brother. Kids have dreams, they can't help it. Kids need to know that other people remember those dreams, they need to know that there's hope, that if you just keep plugging away someday you can take care of your own dreams. And sometimes you can take care of other people's dreams too. I always give the hats and boots. You know, to start.

Guest's picture
Tes

Your story is exactly what I think of when we shop for our "church family."

I admit that we can't afford to buy the kids anything as spectacular as a Stingray bike - we're usualy shopping for 4 - 6 kids + parent(s) and maybe grandparents - but we try to buy mainly "name brand" toys (at least 3 per kid) and one nice, brand-new outfit. The food we buy is all "national brand" too since I figure the family we're buying for has had their fill of generic and store brand items even though we buy those for ourselves frequently and don't think that there is anything wrong w/ them.

I always thought that our family needed to "hear" that no matter what they've been through someone thinks they deserve "the good stuff."

Like I said - the toys we buy probably won't fulfill anyone's dream (no bikes, no iPods etc) but they're all at least brand new, fun items and we hope the kids (and their parents) do hear the message we're trying to deliver.

Guest's picture
Guest

I wanted to ensure my 10 & 11 year old understood the importance of giving and sharing. I have participated in the angel trees thru my company but had always chose a senior. I have a soft spot for the elderly. I was appalled when we went to pick our children to see many of them asking for PSP games, Wii games, PS3 games. Not the actual gaming unit, but the games. Meaning they already own these VERY expensive gaming units. I would expect a kid not knowing how much things cost to ask for the gaming unit, but to already have one and still be on the "needy" list. I felt the lesson of sharing was lost on my kids when they said we do not even have a PS3 or Wii. My children live a comfortable life and save their own allowance and or birthday money so they can purchase things that they really want. I told them that they would be purchasing the gift for the child they picked with their money. This experience did not help teach the lesson in sharing like I hoped. Next year - we will be helping but not via the Angel Program. Too bad too....

Guest's picture
Jan Marie

Okay, I think I read every single post here. I love the talk. Gifts are special, and I think taking the time to think about how we feel about giving, helps put things in a healthy perspective, that is right for each of us.

Off the subject a bit, but still wanted to share it. My son attends a public charter school that just opened this August. It is a small school, with very loving staff. The school motto is "DO THE RIGHT THING, BECAUSE IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO". This motto does not just hang on a wall, the kids are reminded of it daily, and they say it often.
Well, four 4th grade girls, with minimal guidence, have organized a toy drive for the needy. They asked the school to donate new or gently used toys. The response was wonderful. I observed the girls going into classes each day to see if there were any donations, then they took the items to a general area, where all the school kids could see. I saw dolls,games,trucks...things kids like. I know kids like these things, because kids picked out these items to donate. It was kids doing for kids.
When the girls were asked why they wanted to collect the toys? They responded, "Because it's the right thing to do".
The girls choose the charity to benefit from these offerings of love.
I want to be like these 4 little girls that had an idea and made it happen, because it was "the right thing to do". I think these girls will always remember this Christmas that they did what was right. Lets all do what is right. If you are not inspired to give an ipod, don't, if crayons are what you feel moved to give, then may the child that recieves them color everything they dream of. If the Spirit moves you to get an ipod, maybe it's about listening to what moves you, more than it is about what happens after you respond. I think these 4 little girls could have stopped themselves from the Toy Drive ideaa, once they thought about how much work it would be, but instead, I saw the happiest sparkle in their eyes as they worked like elves.
Merry Christmas

Guest's picture
Guest

Another Guest said: "I felt the lesson of sharing was lost on my kids when they said we do not even have a PS3 or Wii. "

Right with ya. I'm sure a lot of these expensive requests come from sweet kids who have no idea of the value of a dollar. And from the notion of a wish list including everything, no matter how unlikely. Ya gotta have feelings for those kids.

By the same token, all these programs have a certain amount of scamming going on. Our family was advised (by other participants) to put our daughter into the Make-A-Wish program because she had heart surgery to repair the most common heart defect. And, even though the surgery was 5 years ago and she has recovered perfectly and is totally normal for the rest of her life, she IS eligible. She has never been in danger for her life ... which is the impression the MAW advertising gives. And neither are many of the kids in that program, so hold onto your wallets my friends.

For this reason and in line with the quote I put up top, our family gives giving-tree gifts in line with the standards we apply to ourselves. I wouldn't give my kids a Wii or Ipod, so no one else's kids are getting one from me, either. When I see a family where they are requesting winter coats and gloves, I feel a surge of compassion and I spend way more than I had budgeted to get really nice stuff. Some years, it's harder to find requests I am willing to fulfill, so we just move along and keep looking. There is no end of opportunity out there for charitable work ... let's all fill our own niches and just try to get along, eh?

Guest's picture
Guest

I've read all the comments above, and I kind of agree with everyone. All people, rich or poor, desire things, but what we do with those desires is the question. Dave, your story was truly touching.

I was in a similar situation at work. My unit adopted a family with seven kids + mom + grandma. There were two things that put me off giving.

#1 - All of the kids asked for gaming systems, iPods, or both.
#2 - Three of the kids were over the age of 18 (adults).

As many people posted above, I think kids should be able to dream big and wish for whatever they want. However, I also think it is in bad taste to ask a charity for these types of items. I feel the original list in my situation should have been pared down and altered by Mom after the kids had wished their little hearts out. They didn't have to know about it. Maybe that makes me heartless, I don't know, but just looking at that list with the seven iPods (they even specified Touches, not the "cheaper" Shuffles), three PSPs plus games, Xbox games (they already had the machine), $200 boots, expensive toiletries, plus other items made me feel sick. This family didn't sound needy. They sounded greedy. I don't know how anyone could look at that list, a gift request list given to a *charity*, and not think "greed". Maybe they could have requested *one* PSP instead of *three*, or just stuck with the Xbox games. It's not wrong or unreasonable for the kids to want these things, but it is questionable to make a list like this and hand it to a charity and ask them to fill it.

I also don't feel particularly inclined to give gifts to grown men and women (18 to 21 years old) masquerading as kids. Again, maybe that makes me heartless, and I'm all for giving gifts to needy kids, but when you're old enough to be making your own way in life it shouldn't surprise you that a stranger is not interested in buying you an iPod because you came from a needy family. You are now (presumably) in a position to be making your own money and providing your own gifts.

I much prefer the schemes some have mentioned above, where you receive the child's age, gender, clothing size, and *maybe* a general interest/toy request (cars, dolls, science, Dora, or whatever). That way you can be a little creative. When you are confronted with a three item list - iPod Touch, PSP + games, DAWG boots - all of which are regularly more than $200, your brain shuts down. You know when confronted with this list that the 13-year-old girl in question is not going to be happy with books or a sweater, and you have no suggested area of interest to explore. It makes you disinclined to give.

Class issues aside, when you have less money you have less things. Maybe this is an old fashioned attitude based on what some have posted above, but I think when you are receiving charity you *should* be happy with what you get, and you should be prepared for the fact that it will probably be less than what others have. Little kids writing lists to Santa don't have to temper their wishes, but when Mom or Dad hands the list to a charitable organization, I would hope s/he has already applied some judicious editing.

Guest's picture
Ryan

I think one of the more important things to consider is that each "giver" is coming from a different perspective, just as each "receiver" is doing the same thing. In any charity, there will be people who think, "I'm going to try and squeeze as much juice out of this as I can," and there will be kids who say, "I don't think it's very possible, but all of my friends have an iPod, and I'd really like one too." There will also be givers who don't feel comfortable spending $100+ on a gift for a stranger when they have limits for their own children family...and there will be givers/groups who have $600 to spend, and can fill those "hope against hopes."

Everyone needs to find a charity that fits in with their own perspective. I'm at my first job after graduation, and this past Christmas, only one of my gifts given was more than $30 (ironically, it was an iPod). My aunt, third-in-command at a local large business with a 6-figure income, routinely gives $400+ worth of gifts to each of her 3 nephews and nieces.

When the Christmas charities came calling, I chose a family who wanted to, in their words, "have a family night." A gift card to Blockbuster, popcorn and some candy, and Clue cost me $35, and will hopefully give them what they wanted.

Guest's picture
CL31

I agree with many of the responses above. My experience with holiday giving is a little different.

I live in the midwest, in an area that has been economically hard-hit for the last few years. When I visited the wish tree at the libarary this year, I was humbled and saddened by the gifts that some children had asked for, such as an 8 yr-old girl asking for "book about dogs" and a 12 yr-old boy asking for "colored pencils and sketch pad". There were also many children who asked for things like shoes, backpacks, and clothes. Our office also sponsored a family of 6 for our "Adopt a Family" program. The family was referred to us by the teacher and guidance counselor of a local school. The kids asked for simple things, like a watch, a sweater, toy cars, etc. I know that some people are offended when the parents ask for gifts, but these parents asked for towels, pots & pans, and blankets--hardly extravagant.

I would probably be upset by kids asking for expensive gifts, but that hasn't been my experience.

Guest's picture
Guest

What in the heck is wrong with everyone??? A child who can barely afford to feed themselves asks for the very biggest and bes thing thing they can think of, and you want to SHAME them? Maybe my outlook is different because I'm a follower of Jesus. Time and time again my father has given me outrageous things. Not just things I don't deserve, but things that are simply outlandish because of his love for me. Therefore I am more than happy to take a percentage of our paycheck and spend it on a child who "deserves" material things just as much as I "deserve" anything in my life that I have ever received. So we spent $600 this year on a 17 year old boy. Was it more than I spent on my family and my own husband? It sure was. But we can buy the things we want any time of the year. So I got that kid every material thing his heart could ask for: Designer Jeans, a work wardrobe complete with shoes, an iPod touch, and Kobe IV Basketball shoes- does he deserve it? Probably not. But then, neither do I. My money is not my own, it is the Lord's and I choose to use it to bless HIS children in the same way I would bless my own.

Oh, and we aren't rich. In fact when my husband and I both lost our jobs and had NO income for 2.5 months it sure changed our perspective. It's been a rough year financially, but we choose to honor God with our giving.

"Darn Needy kids- with their iPods, X boxes and their fancy tennis shoes. Wish I was needy!"

I hope you encounter the love of God in the same way we have this year. Maybe you would get a reality check.

Guest's picture
Guest

Oh and sorry for my typo: "father" was supposed to be capitalized- as in God. See I believe that God gave me a very important gift that I didn't deserve. He gave me mercy. When I acted like a spoiled, rotten child he extended me grace, not judgement. That's what happened on the cross. He died and with that he erased all of my poor behavior, and also gave me the gift of life. It is probably why I have a very different outlook. If you're interested, you can learn more info about my outlook on life at www.thevillagechurch.net

Guest's picture
Guest

We're needy this year but we aren't on any gift lists. Many people are hurting this year with so many losing jobs and in my own kids words "This year Christmas is going to suck, Santa won't be coming." I assured him Santa comes to all the little kids. He's in that stage where he doesn't know whether he believes or not.

Most kids are influenced by what they see other kids at school getting and from commercials and when we feed them the idea of Santa and "wish lists" the kids are going to "dream big".

So in hopes Santa will come, my 4th grader wants things like mp3, cell phone, Wii, a $60 space show small building blocks set and a $100 rc car from specific toy store and he didn't know the prices, I looked them up.

I explained to him that I'm sure Santa also thinks of what the parents can or can't afford when bringing toys such as parents may not be able to afford monthly cell phone bills (mom and dad doesn't even have a cell anymore) and can't afford to buy the extra games for Wii and can't afford to buy songs for mp3s. I do hope people keep this in mind when purchasing toys for the needy. You're hearing this straight from a mom who's on a very tight budget here.

So why don't you guys just get the kids something age appropriate and more affordable instead?

And to the lady who thinks people who have food, clothes, a computer and tv means children can't be needy, please rethink that. We do have food, but the gift money was budgeted out of the grocery funds and we rarely get the foods we'd really like to have anyhow. We also have clothes, which came from second hand stores. Our computer is very old, bought already used years ago when times were better for $100 and the tv was given to us by a relative who had a spare one. Sometimes we don't have the money to cover our bills, so what does it mean to be needy?

So far we've spent $40 by getting a small set of blocks, a micro rc car, and two nice metal miniature cars. Even these toys add up when you only buy a few. But bills be damned, kids don't deserve to be missed by Santa.

The older two teens still need a coat, which may come used from the second hand store since they're too old for Santa.

Also as far as the lady who complained about toys being returned. A few years ago we had to return one because Santa had brought the same toy a grandparent had given. One had to be returned and no we don't do drugs or buy beer, and that's the kid's money anyway, geesh.

We won't be able to get the relatives gifts this year. I don't think I'll even be able to face them out of shame for the annual family get together.

Now I'm already expecting to get bashed because we're "needy" and I admitted it. Don't waste your energy. We aren't on anyone's needy list and we won't be! I just wish some of you would think about what it means and how it feels to be in "our" shoes and struggling and doing without so dang much because I'm sure the ones on the lists are probably a lot like my family is at this time. Honestly, I wouldn't even want any help from some of these people who would only want to sit around and judge and condemn us.

I hope those kids on the trees do get at least something from Santa so his spirit does live on and I hope the spirit behind those gifts is the right one.

Merry Christmas or Bah-Humbug

Maggie Wells's picture

That was my daughter's age. My son and daughter picked out the stuff. But again, we steered clear of the request lists for things that were out of our own reach for presents.

We got the 4 year old the same things we'd get our own 4 year old.  But I think we gravitated towards her tag anyhow because she seemed to want things within our budget. If she'd wanted an iPod or an X box we wouldn't have taken her angel.

 

Margaret Garcia-Couoh