Thursday, December 16, 2010



Christmas is one of the most marketed holiday in America. Mostly because of the tradition of giving gifts which has become a boom for the retail sector of the economy. Children grow up with the expectation of receiving gifts from birth, or, as soon as they are able to understand that they are to receive things at this time of the year.

Does that mean that those who don't receive gifts are not loved or are not good children so are being punished? We all know that the truth is that their parents lack the resources to participate in the gift-giving process. Some parents, in an attempt to save their children's self-esteem, use money meant for food, clothing, medicine and shelter to buy gifts. And they end up homeless, in failing health or, in bankruptcy court.

Our kupunas have a reverse situation. They grew up in a time that when they receive something from someone, they must give back an equal or greater amount. When going to a gathering, one must not go empty-handed. What happens when the kupuna doesn't have the resources to buy gifts or food to bring to a gathering as their contribution? I would guess that most would become reclusive and shut out family members from their lives. They would stay at home alone.

Some kupunas stop buying food and medicine so they can buy gifts for family members just so they don't have to be alone on Christmas. Many won't accept free Christmas dinners provided by charities because they grew up in a time when accepting something from someone means that they are obligated to pay back. Many don't have the resources to pay back. We try to convince them that they paid taxes so are entitled to some of the free things, but many aren't buying it. They know that their taxes are used to fund other things.

If we understand why they may be shutting everyone out, perhaps we can help them to "contribute" their fair share. For instance, if there's a family gathering where everyone is to bring a dish, one might buy the ingredients and go to the kupuna's house and ask for help in preparing that special dish that only he/she can make. Then you can go to the family gathering together with the prepared dish as your joint contribution.

When exchanging gifts, give the kupuna something he/she needs and wants but can't afford. Or, give a small box of $3 chocolates and insert a $100 bill in a card accompanying the gift. If the kupuna is spending $50 on gifts for you and your family, double that in your cash gift so the kupuna doesn't have to forego necessities like medicine or food.

This is a time of the year when many people go into deep depressions because they cannot afford to give gifts or go into debt by buying on credit. A true gift is something that helps to save the other person's self-esteem rather than to feed the giver's ego. Sometimes that can mean instituting a "no gift" rule among yourselves.

Have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy and safe New Year.

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