We have all heard the adage, “No matter how much you have, someone always has more.” However, we sometimes fail to realize the opposite is also true. No matter how much – or little – you have, someone always has less.

The Forecaster recently reported “Tree shortage leaves some nonprofits out on a limb.” While some communities have canceled fundraisers, some who have “a relationship with vendors are supplied with the usual amount.” Another example of the sound words above. It’s a strong kick in the gut these days. “What? No Christmas tree?” Imagine the disappointment, the expectations dashed.

Instead of being upset, perhaps it’s a good time to unplug the expectations of the holiday season. The average American these days can be seen scrambling to buy things for whatever holiday you celebrate. We have created a need machine. I ask myself, how does one see Christmas through a child’s eyes without feeding the consumerism? How can I avoid feeding the landfills or countries who don’t respect the human rights of their laborers yet profit from our demands? How do I teach the next generation they are loved and valued without feeding wasteful commercialism? Is it even possible?

Let’s face it, we are inundated with marketing for the newest and up-to-date of everything. Most of us long for time and simplicity. Are we even capable of taking an honest look at what we do with our time, energy and money? We have supplanted the word “want” with “need.” Does the gift we give say “I care,” or “I am just expected to give”? Are our kids in need or have we substituted things to fill the emptiness? Too many parents are pleading with grandparents, “No more stuff!” We live in a world which has industries created to store, control and organize our excess, yet we keep on.

Haven’t we all pondered, “Do the people I buy for need more things?” How can I express the feeling of appreciation and joy without running around and spending the $25 for the grab? The fact that parents need to make room for new acquisitions speaks volumes. When is it too much? So, I am opting for a simpler approach. I’m not buying any more small cheap gifts that I know really aren’t needed. My Christmas tree won’t be measured. I already don’t even have a charcuterie board – gasp! – so no worries there about my deficiencies.

Instead, I’ll make time for a friend, buy someone a cup of coffee, pay for meal at a shelter or surprise a large family in the grocery store with a donation. If I get creative, the possibilities are endless. Doing something thoughtful sure beats that ornament or candle, I think. I’m going to try to redefine expectation. Hopefully the kids around me will understand that doing things more thoughtfully can feed us differently. If we redefine need, the next generation may learn to appreciate time and money, and maybe even start a new tradition.

Anne Boehm is a pediatric ICU nurse at Maine Medical Center in Portland. She has volunteered for health care mission work in many countries.

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