Christmas wants and needs

“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth” was a song from my childhood. I remember having fun trying to sing along while exaggerating the lisps of the gap-toothed kid it was written about.

Thinking back it’s probably my first realization that Christmas, especially to a child, is about what we want. I never heard a Santa ask “What do you need for Christmas?” NEED usually doesn’t have much to do with Christmas, at least not for most of us. Even though Ralphie thought he NEEDed a Red Ryder double-barreled shotgun – nope, he just wanted it – a lot. I think of real NEED as describing year-round problems.

I want perfume, a manicure gift card and some cozy slippers. Or, maybe dreaming a little, a new lap top. Do I NEED any of these things? Of course not. I have two pairs of slippers, each in various stages of shabbiness, but nowhere near terminal. New slippers would be nice, but necessary? Not even close.

I actually don’t NEED anything. All any of us really NEED is food, water, shelter, warmth and clothing. Manicures? Perfume? Lap tops? Not needs. Just wants.

A few Christmases ago, our family starting tossing this idea around and quickly agreed that not one of us really NEEDED anything. What we need we buy as we go. No, we’re not wealthy people, but like most Americans, we provide all our own needs, for one reason – because we are able to.

We thought about those who are not able to and the fact that those people have real NEEDS not just at Christmastime but all year round. Most of these needy don’t have the luxury of wanting and dreaming.

My stepdaughter in California has a good job with a wonderfully beneficent corporation in Los Angeles. For every dollar donated, the company will donate two. A ten dollar donation becomes thirty, a hundred bucks morphs into three hundred. We were blown away by the generosity of this company’s largesse, but also by the opportunity to do some serious good. Although they do cap the limit for each employee’s family, it does not hamper our ability to really help the charities we choose. We were excited at the prospect.

We decided the first year that we would help those for whom the help makes an important difference in a person’s life. But we also thought we’d like to make bigger gifts to only one or two charities rather than splitting our donations into small amounts. Since our family group is two couples and two single adults we decided one couple and one single would choose the first year’s donations direction. The second year, the other three choose. The match has enabled us to split the many hundreds we’d normally spend on Christmas into thousands we now give way each year.

The first year, Richard and I chose the Warren County Veterans’ Emergency Fund knowing that 100% of the money stays locally for our neediest veterans. My son, a Marine veteran, chose a special Marine children’s fund.

Last year my daughter and son-in-law chose the good work of Doctors without Borders. My stepdaughter selected The Smile Train and was thrilled to learn that seven ugly cleft palates were transformed into seven happy youngsters ready to face normal lives. This year, for the first time, we are all in agreement for the desperate people of Puerto Rico. We chose a local well-rated charity on the island to make our gift go as far as possible for those needy Americans.

This is not a question of nobility. Yes, we do feel good about what we’re donating, but in the very best way, the way we’re supposed to feel at Christmas. And yes, we do give one small gift to each other so we a still share the morning around the tree before the breakfast casserole. The children are exempt, but they’re learning true Christmas spirit as we are learning.

I can’t speak for all six adult family members, but that warm glow from giving to those who, through no fault of their own have such tremendous life challenges, brings me a lot of contentment.

The matching fund has certainly enabled us to do more, but now, even if my stepdaughter leaves this generous employer, we’ve caught the spirit, we will continue. That glow is all I really want for Christmas. I never had it after a spending spree on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Come to think of it, we all do NEED some of that good feeling in our lives, whether we know it or not.

That, and for the dentist to keep my geriatric mouth intact, “tho I can with you Merry Chrithmuth.”

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