Friday, November 24, 2006


I'm no ascetic. I enjoy Christmas for lots of reasons, including the family and the food and the pretty twinkly lights. But I'll readily admit that the smell of scotch tape and evergreen fill my belly with the excitement of unwrapping little morsels of materialistic joy.

In the next month, millions of people will spend, on average, more than seven hundred dollars on gifts--that is, more than I will spend to live in my apartment. And I promise not to turn this into a rant on how ridiculous that is, and how we've all lost track of the most important reasons for celebrating during the holidays, because I'm sure we're all bored with that argument.

But, since we do happen to live in a dangerously materialistic society, I would like to understand why so many people decline to share a little piece of their store-bought happiness with those who can't afford to buy it for themselves. For the past week, I've spent hours a day asking customers at the cash register whether they want to donate a children's book to the local public library system. We make it incredibly easy to do--and cheap, too, for those who can't afford to spend much. A lot of people choose to donate, and a lot of people choose not to. I don't usually judge the customers who decline, but I make certain exceptions. For instance, a woman with a two-carat diamond ring on her finger and a Coach handbag can probably afford to support literacy in her community. And today I felt sick at the selfishness of the man buying $75 worth of books for his own three kids, when he tersely said "no" to the option of spending an extra $3.50 for the benefit of several hundred children who aren't so lucky.

Some people make me sad.


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