Have we replaced ‘giving’ with ‘gifting’?

Christmas means family, friends, food, fun. It means shopping, planning, anticipating. It means big smiles for children and even bigger smiles for retailers. But for some, Christmas is not wrapped in joy or decorated with excitement – it is aching loneliness, stinging hunger; desperation doubled by cruel comparison. Pain is amplified in December. Rarely do we give pause to what the ’festive’ season means to the ones without a tree, without a table, without a home. While the majority of us hit the bubbles, some hit the pavement, quite literally. Sleeping rough is even rougher during the ‘silly season’. The isolation and stark contrast felt by those doing it tough is a sobering reminder of our fragile humanity and what Christmas is truly about – giving.

‘Giving’ has certainly lost some of its meaning, we have diluted the word – it once embodied kindness, compassion, charity and generosity. With the excess gifting now applied to Christmas, ‘giving’ has become more about cash, comparison and credit cards. In the perfect world the 25th of December would be a day we open our wallets for many in need, a day we collectively as a society endeavor to lift those at the very bottom.

There are exceptions of course, we are surrounded with opportunities to extend our giving to where it counts; to exercise our social conscious over the Christmas period. With retail somewhat ‘owning’ Christmas, there are some consumers and companies utilizing the powerful force of fashion to assist those in need; below the surface there can be found examples of an industry shift for the better. This Christmas, in the spiriting of lessening the disparity of the have and have nots, there are ways to bridge the gap and apply the spiriting of giving in a more meaningful way by lending support to the companies championing charity.

One such incredible initiative is Fashion Project, an e-commerce site which allows users to donate their used items to be re-sold. Fashion Project photograph and sell the donated items with 55% of the profits going towards charity. Based in Boston, the selling of just one dress provides a meal for up to 300 people in the local food bank. Founders, Anna Palmer and Christine Rizk are blending fashion and charity by incorporating the community into their initiative in a very unique way. This blend has proven to be incredibly successful idea and the idea has opened the doors for similar projects.

Feed is a fashion based charity which is making big waves in the company with a conscience world by feeding and educating children through the sale of a bag printed with the words ‘Feed 1’. The bag was such a success, the company now sells a range of accessory items and to date have supplied 85 million meals globally.

Another well know well-known philanthropic footwear and accessories label, Toms, operates on the idea of ‘One for One’ – for every pair sold, a pair of shoes, eyewear or a week of clean water is supplied to someone in need.

The direction we send our dollars can and does make a difference. There are more and more fashion charities cropping up and the onus falls on the consumer to support this movement. We must vote with our wallets and our hearts. We can work towards shifting the meaning of ‘giving’ this Christmas and inject the positive connotations of kindness, love, compassion and community back into the word.

Come Christmas Eve, as the shopping centres burst at the seams, the consumerism cycle goes mad and the banks cash in, it is important to step outside this profit circus and connect with the meaning behind it all. Christmas needn’t be about excess, it can about access – access for those struggling, access to shelter, access to food, access to clean water, access to a sense of family. That is a gift worth giving, in every sense of the word.

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