Thursday, December 09, 2010


So, I started off the day grumpy, but then I got on-line and the Internets whisked my grumps away.  Hooray, Internets!

Despite this change in mood, I'm still going to write about something that has been bothering me lately.  It relates to a posting on Facebook (I want to add, "posted by a friend," but duh):

"One of the kids on the tree at Shopko only asked for a laptop and an iPod. How poor are you, really?"

I replied: "What's wrong with a little wishful thinking?"

And her friends (people I don't know) replied:

"nothing except when you want some of the most expensive stuff in the world when there are kids who are really really in need"


"If these kids are THAT poor I don't know why they wouldn't be wishing for something that doesn't require someone else to spend hundreds of dollars. An IPod is like $300!!! Not everyone is rich.. as they seem to think. Whatever happened to good old fashioned board games, puzzles and books? And IPod is an inappropriate gift request from a stranger. Then when they don't get it? Who's the bad guy?"


What bugs me is that: 1) iPods and laptops are not some of the most expensive things in the world; she must not get out much; 2) the assumption that because someone is "poor" they shouldn't know about or want things outside of their means; 3) the assumption that the 13 year old doesn't still believe in Santa (who would then get the blame for not delivering the requested gifts); and 4) the assumptions about people living in poverty.  It's the second and fourth assumptions that bug me the most.

First, I think a lot of assumptions are being made about how one gets on the Giving Tree at Shopko - I (and I assume these other folks) aren't aware of the requirements.  Perhaps I could, since I am unemployed - who knows.  Second, most Giving Trees (perhaps this one is an exception - again, don't know the rules) are about giving a child a present for Christmas.  Do kids really "need" Christmas presents?  No.  They "need" food, clothing, shelter and love.  I doubt many kids asked for a brussel sprouts, wool socks and a hug on their gift request.  Third, because someone is "poor" (such a vague term to start with), does it mean they cannot want the finer things in life?  And do only "rich" people own things like iPods and laptops?  No and no.  (Plus, she's going into high school - I think a laptop is a very practical request.)

It just bugs me how many rampant assumptions about people living in poverty went into that exchange.  And how many assumptions run rampant in our society about people living in poverty (not "poor people").  And how rarely we look at how privileged we are (myself included).

If it was my child that requested the laptop and iPod (and I was aware of the request - it's her request, why do I need to know?), I'd counsel her to dream big but keep her expectations realistic, that many people might want to give her those things but it's tough for most people to afford to do so, especially at a time of the year when they are buying gifts for others as well, and if she'd really like a gift, to perhaps scale down her request.  Then we'd have a lesson about run-on sentences.

I think, sometimes, people forget the purpose of Giving Trees - to give a gift.  In the past, I've done it because I want to feel good about myself by giving a gift to someone "less fortunate" (what an awful phrase) rather than it being about sharing my abundance with someone who was brave enough to ask me to share it with them.

So, there.  I didn't want to post this all on Facebook because...well, it didn't seem like the right kind of forum.  And I didn't feel like arguing with people I don't know.


sunnywave said...

*hug* thanks for posting. i'm trying to savor the holiday season amidst the hustle and bustle of deadlines, sleep deprivation, and poo. so this was a nice reminder of the spirit of giving, wishful thinking, giving, and hoping for the best.

amandaw said...

I LOVE this post! I always have an issue with this! People watch too many movies. They think poor is only living in a car or box, with nothing to eat. I was poor...really poor. And what I wanted? A Nintendo. Should I have asked for food, money to help my parents pay bills, a car that ran. Yes, but hell I was a kid. I want what everyone else seemed to have, but was only a dream. Something like a laptop is just a dream to some kids, not possible when mom is working two jobs but still doesn't have health care so is still paying off that medical bill. Oprah always pisses me off about this too. She has said she only focuses on giving to kids in third world countries because they ask for school supplies or a coat. That's great we should definitely help these kids, but a Nintendo or laptop is our version of wanting school supplies...a coat. Why must we judge another person's situation. ohhh, don't get me started.