I just came back from my second ornament/gift exchange Christmas party this week and realize while driving back home that I have become a lousy gift giver. This year, I pretty much stink at gift giving. In the past years, I have prided myself on a treasure that would cause envy and that would be stolen at least two times until it was declared safe or “dead” to steal any longer. I was so confident of my purchase that I would even wrap it with the outside of a paper grocery bag to disguise it from those who only looked on the outside of gifts to pick, knowing full well that once opened, everyone in the room would wish they would have chosen the plain wrapped package. I have always loved buying the perfect gift – the one that I thought suited the recipient perfectly. Well, things have changed. I have changed or am at least in process.
It started Wednesday night when I dropped off my daughter at swim practice. I had 45 minutes to either race home to finish dinner or to look for a ornament for the annual neighborhood ornament exchange which was to be the following day. The year before, I purchased my ornament at Pier 1 Imports where I found the most beautiful ornament within my budget of $15. The store also happens to be the closest store near our local swimming pool, so I took my son in to begin the hunt. I immediately found what I was looking for – a beautiful hand-painted glass ornament in a stunning green matching box. To make things better, it was priced $5 under my budget – bonus. In the past I would been delighted at the treasure and would have been thrilled to tell my husband that we actually saved $5. Instead, however, my stomach began to turn as I begin to wonder why it was so inexpensive. The ornament said it was made in China. Many things are made in China these days. But how I am suppose to know how the people who made this beautiful ornament were treated. Were they paid a fair wage? Did they want to paint them? Are they free to find other work if they are mistreated by their employer? I felt stuck. I look around some more and every ornament was made in China or India and I just didn’t know. I wandered the store for about 15 minutes, then grabbed my son’s hand and said, “Well, let’s go.”
He asked me, “Aren’t you going to get one?”
“Na, ” I replied. “I have some at home, I can use.”
“What are we going to do now until sister is out of swimming?” he wondered.
“Well, how about we play that Angry Bird game on my phone that you have been wanting to play. You can show me how it goes.”
I gave four small glass candy ornaments that I already had for the ornament exchange. They are some that I love as I was given them as a wedding gift. I figured if I am going to give “used” ornaments, they should at least be some that I love as to relieve the guilt. To my surprise they were well-received and no one seemed to notice, and yet my gift was not the coveted gift this year.
As I wait in my car playing a game with my son on my phone while my daughter is swimming, I think about my phone – where were the minerals mined to make this phone? Will it ever end? Will this tension of living with what I am beginning to learn and understand ever going to match with how I live my life? Will I live long enough to see a Slave Free brand so I can begin to purchase with a clear conscious? I sure hope so. For now, I settle with recycling ornaments for a ornament exchange and figure it is something. It might not be much, but it is something and I hope this something will someday add up with the other somethings that people are doing to create change. I pray for wisdom and discernment and for grace. And I begin to chuckle as I imagine the reaction of the woman who is going to open up the CD I bought to help support International Justice Mission at the next gift exchange. I am thinking we are all going to need a lot of grace.