“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.” —Booker T. Washington
‘Tis the season for accumulation.
Over the next several weeks, new possessions will enter homes at an alarming rate. The new possessions will arrive in stockings, gift bags, gift wrap, and envelopes. And the new products will come in various forms: electronics, clothes, books, toys, jewelry, gift cards, video games, decorations, DVD’s, and cookware. In America alone, over $600 billion dollars will be spent on retail goods during the months of November and December.
Some gifts will meet legitimate needs. But most gifts during the holiday season are purchased to satisfy wants: another new doll for your daughter, a new video game system for your son, or a K-cup coffee maker for the parents. Worse yet, many of the gifts we give will satisfy neither needs or wants—instead, they will only satisfy an obligation.
When the gift opening is done, new toys will clutter kids’ rooms and new clothes will clutter our closets. Gift cards will line our pockets and holiday cards will decorate our refrigerators. New gadgets will be shoved into cupboards. And new electronics will be plugged into available outlets all around our homes.
Our houses will fill up with more and more accumulated stuff. Then, the weariness will begin to set in. It always does.
Possessions bring about that effect on us. They clutter our physical space and steal our mental energy. They take time to clean and manage and organize. We worry about them getting broken or dirty or lost. They cost us financial opportunity. The accumulation makes our home feel cramped or too little or designed without enough storage space. Eventually, our possessions wear out or go out of style. And in the end, they never bring as much joy to us as they do the models on the packaging.
We will spend $600 billion dollars during this holiday season. But in the end, we will be no happier than we were before. We will only be more tired, more burdened, and more distracted from the very things that do bring us joy, purpose, and meaning.
There is more joy in owning less than can be found in owning more. And it is far better to donate than accumulate.
Meanwhile, there are countless charitable organizations all around the world meeting very real needs. These charitable organizations are providing food and shelter to those without any. They are delivering clean water to entire villages without supply. They are protecting battered women and offering needed supplies to expectant mothers. They are placing orphans in loving families. They are offering educational assistance to those who need it most. And they are offering new opportunity for those who have had it taken from them.
These very real needs are all around us. They are across the ocean. They are in our cities. They are in our neighborhoods. And they live above us in our apartment buildings.
The act of donation is a win-win situation. For those with too little, needs are met. And for those with too much, freedom is discovered in our homes and in our lives.
It is time to shift our thinking on this issue. We have spent too many years and too many holidays chasing accumulation. But the accumulation of retail goods has not brought contentment or joy or purpose. It has not delivered on its promise. We have satisfied our wants, only to be left wanting more.
In the coming days, seek to break the cycle of accumulation in your life and in your home. Embrace the joy of donation by giving away your unneeded possessions. And discover again, It is better to give than to receive.