“Alas, we are a nation of gorgers! Which leads me to ask, what is the void so many Americans are desperate to fill? Given our proclivity to repeatedly overfeed ourselves, and to ‘shop ‘til we drop,’ it’s clear that neither activity satisfies our needs.”—Helen Noakes
By Helen Noakes
Children of parents with any amount of affluence, or those willing to run up credit card debt, have come to expect piles of presents under the Christmas tree.
While the gift of a toy or a book, or whatever the child deeply desires may be a delight for a parent to give, I can’t help but think that loading children with too many things leads to too many issues.
A child begins to demand items which will entertain and appease for a moment, soon to be discarded for the next object of desire advertisers convince children they need. And there is always a danger that children will equate the acquisition of objects with happiness and love. Hoarding and gluttony are not far behind.
We are, sadly, a culture of “too much.” Russians have a perfect expression for this: жиру beseatsa (zhirou beseatsa). Literally translated, it means going mad from gorging on fat. You get the idea. Much of our population is overweight. Portions on restaurant plates are gargantuan; this latter dictated by patrons’ demands. Alas, we are a nation of gorgers!
Which leads me to ask, what is the void so many Americans are desperate to fill? Given our proclivity to repeatedly overfeed ourselves, and to “shop ‘til we drop,” it’s clear that neither activity satisfies our needs.
Have we forgotten real gifts? Have we, a culture which has become shallower and shallower in our thinking, our pursuits, even our religious faith, lost the fundamentals of fulfillment? Have we lost the ability to look within ourselves to find contentment there?
To be able to do that, indeed, to have it even occur to us to do that, we need to have known someone in our early lives who showed us how to find beauty and mystery in the world we occupy and, by extension, in ourselves. We need to stop stuffing our children’s minds with stupid distractions, their hands with mounds of stuff that will only become tomorrow’s heaps of garbage.
The time we spend with our children, introducing them to books, to ideas, teaching them to observe, learn from, and respect people of different cultures, colors, and faiths, teaching them that they are the future custodians of this planet, that all life–human, animal and plant–matters, is the time necessary to rearing mindful, intelligent, and fulfilled adults.
Introducing our children to the arts, music, theater, and the sciences, is to encourage them to pursue their own talents and to establish a life-long interest in those aspects of life which lift the spirit and inspire a broader view of the world.
Instead of buying them 20 toys, buy ten, and take them to a planetarium, a natural history museum, pointing out the awesome gift of this universe we occupy. Talk to them about the marvelous machines that are their bodies. Teach them to respect the body, and the wonder of our galaxy, the grandeur of space.
Such a gift will plant a seed which will nourish children’s minds and their emotions for a lifetime. If we instill respect for their own bodies at an early age, how likely are our children to avoid abusing them? How likely are they to behave with senseless carelessness towards the people around them, the planet they occupy?
Museums, orchestras, dance and theater companies all over the United States provide interactive events for children and young adults. Major sports teams offer special days for kids to meet and be coached by athletes they admire. Rather than buy another toy, consider investing in these programs. It’s an investment in your child’s future.
The greatest gift we can give to a child are the tools to a fulfilling existence, to a grand perspective of what is possible, and that can’t be found in mountains of toys which, once their packaging is discarded, become tomorrow’s junk.
Happy Holidays to you all. May you and yours find joy, contentment, and love in each other and in the world.