Does it bother any of you that the way our culture celebrates is by spending money? I've been thinking about this lately, because a) we don't have much money right now, and b) there are tons of birthdays/holidays/weddings/graduations during the summer that the expected gift is a gift of money or something you buy.
For example, I truly love and appreciate my dad, my father-in-law, my 2 grandpas and my grandpa-in-law, but if I just bought cards for all of them for Fathers Day that would be around $15, paid to a company that is in existence because people feel obligated to give cards on special occasions. I want to show my father figures how much I appreciate them, but is a card (or a new tie or a barbecue implement or a golf game) the best way to do that?
Solutions: Fathers Day is easier than some because dads aren't known for caring much about cards. My dad doesn't even like ties, has all the barbecue stuff he needs (a little grill), and doesn't golf. So I can spend time with him. He's an artist so sometimes I make him a card. Yesterday was great because although I didn't plan ahead very well, I called him up after meeting and asked if I could come over, and it just so happened that he needed help that afternoon getting some of his pieces to an art show he was in, and it turned out that without me being there it would have been very difficult. So it was great to be able to give him that gift of time and helping out, and we got to hang out afterwards and talk and watch a DVD and walk around the backyard. I think it was a pretty perfect Fathers Day, if I may say so myself, but it didn't require me spending money to have a great day.
But how do we deal with weddings and graduations and all that? There's just something that gets me about the fact that we celebrate through spending money on people. First of all it's not inclusive--those without enough money feel like they can't come to a party or a wedding if they can't afford a gift. Also it seems like a bit of an easy way out: I'll buy a card and sign my name, write a check, and call it celebrating. What kind of celebrating is that???
When I got married I truly did need a lot of things to set up a normal American household. I appreciated the money we received and the gifts, and it was humbling to be showered with so many things from those who had been part of our lives. I enjoy being able to give things to people who are getting married so they can begin to make their new space a home together.
But at the same time, when people give me the gift of their time, or something they've made, or a card that they've written in to say what they appreciate or what they're celebrating with me, it's more meaningful than getting a gift that I may or may not use. And I'd rather hang out with people at a party than them not be there because they couldn't afford a gift. It seems like there are better ways to "love our neighbors" than giving them money, and perhaps giving them money is pretty low on the list--like Peter said in Acts, "I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk." (Acts 3:6) Now that would be a pretty good Fathers Day gift!
So I'm wondering, how do you all address this problem? How do you say "thank you" or "congratulations" besides spending money?