Last weekend, I set off to do my Christmas shopping. As a single gay Dad, time to do such an activity is scarce. I also have to admit, my heart is a bit distracted over the shopping endeavor this year. The night I went out, it was pouring rain, which fed into the “weather outside is frightful” milieu, but still meant the idea of shopping sucked.
Everything was progressing nicely, materialism-acquisition-wise, until I checked out. With several hundred dollars worth of goods bagged I heard the death kneel words any shopper dreads … “your card has been declined.” What??
Long story short, my card data was in with other card data at an anonymous vendor whose data was fatally compromised. For my “protection,” my bank was not going to let me shop. At least not on that particular evening. Glum and dejected, I had to ponder… “Isn’t it supposed to be better than THIS?” I then realized, yes, it IS supposed to be better.
I have stepped back and reflected. I thought back to my years of best Christmas giving experiences, and with that, have come up with a five point plan. I challenge you to try it, or reflect on when you enacted something similar before, and then see if it is, in fact, your best Christmas ever.
Here is the plan:
1. Share music. Send music to people that you know they will love, whatever means possible. My boyfriend sang out a beautiful rendition of “Silent Night” to his late mother on a video shot in front of our Christmas tree. He shared this love with his friends list, and emotionally moved many.
2. Bake. My sons and I, no great magicians in the kitchen, whip up our decorated slice-and-bakes and distribute them through the neighborhood. It is an excuse to embrace our neighbors and physical community, and the goodwill it produces lasts beyond the calories.
3. Create beauty. Decorate, paint, design… whatever expression works for you. In my family this year we painted ceramic Christmas village houses. It was fun, it was imaginative and we ended up with pieces that will make us remember the love between us at that given place and time.
4. Do something important for loved ones. I am resolved to worry less about spending money on the ones I love, and doing things that may cost little, but are truly important. Write a poem, frame that great picture together, buy them the used book you KNOW they will love. I thought hard about this a few years ago as I pondered what to give my dad whom I adore, and who is getting up in years and won’t be with me much longer. What can I do for a person like that? As a dad myself, I used that perspective to think about what I would want from my own sons. I constantly am trying to do things for them that they like and enjoy, but the thing that is illusive is which events really stick with them? I decided that my dad may want to know that about me, so I wrote up my “Top 10 Most Memorable Moments” that I had spent with him in my life. He teared and choked up as he read each one aloud to our family. It was hands down the most important gift I had ever given to him, or anyone else for that matter. The list now sits on his nightstand. He reads it to himself every single night since I gave it to him.
5. Adopt people who you don’t know, but need you. There are lots of charitable hands out this year, and I am not really talking about swiping a credit card so funds go to different non-profit funds. Thirty years ago a piece called the “White Envelope” was published in Woman’s Day Magazine. In that story, a woman does something significant for strangers, then shares about it to her family via a note placed on their tree. It is their best family gift.
For those of us who are LGBTQ, we need to fill white envelopes on our trees for our children we have never met.
There are the kids who have come out to their families and been kicked out of their family homes and are now living on the street. What group of children needs love and Christmas more than they do? What group of children is more ours?
If you think this group is a small or an insignificant one, think again. There are about 2800 of these kids in Los Angeles, 3000 in San Francisco, there are MORE than that in places like Salt Lake City, and close to 1000 in smaller cities like Detroit. I admit, finding out what you can do for such kids in your personal community, and they are there, is a challenge. It would be easy to ignore and walk away. If the concept of a true LGBTQ Community is real however, these are OUR kids and we need to do what we can to help. There are 300,000 to 400,000 of them that will be homeless this Christmas morning. They are hurt, they are in danger, and they need US.
We can start by making them the White Envelopes on our trees, and we can end with making real differences. Please give it some thought and take some action.
Change lives, change Christmas and make memories.
[box type=”bio”] ROB WATSON is Director of Partners and Alliances Communication for Hitachi Data Systems, and blogs at evoL= . He has served as the president of the board of directors for Santa Cruz AIDS project, is a dedicated activist for the LGBT community, and a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post. He is the proud father of two sons he first fostered then adopted. They reside in Northern California.