many of us will gather around the Thanksgiving table
with family and friends to indulge in an abundance
of delicious traditional foods and give thanks for
abundant blessings and freedoms.
upcoming winter holidays are a wonderful and highly
anticipated time to connect with loved ones and indulge
in a certain amount of excess including, for many of
us, excessive gift-giving. Holidays can be both the best
of times (in terms of social gatherings) and the worst
of times (in terms of overconsumption).
year, Americans will spend close to $680 billion on
holiday gifts for family and friends. Adults expect to
spend an average of $1,189 each even though research
shows that 70 percent of those same people would welcome
less emphasis on gift-giving and spending.
are some examples of "discretionary" holiday
spending in the U.S.:
than $9 billion on Halloween, including $350 million on
than $3.2 billion on wrapping paper.
than $9.5 billion on gifts that recipients consider
unwanted or unneeded.
spending can seem especially excessive in the context of
In 2016, 41 million Americans (including 13 million
children) lived in food-insecure households. This means
that 1 in 8 of us (and 1 in 6 of our children) lack
consistent access to adequate food. Twenty-six percent
of us earn too much to qualify for most federal
nutrition assistance programs, but not enough to buy
Forty percent of the food in the United States goes
uneaten. Americans throw away more than 70 billion
pounds of food a year. This number does not include the
huge amount of produce discarded by millions of backyard
percent of fresh water is used to grow food that is
spending should also be considered in the context of
some startling economic facts:
Fifty-seven percent of Americans do not have the
financial resources to cover a $500 unexpected expense;
Forty-five million people in the United States live
below the federal poverty line ($11,892 for individuals
and $23,836 for a family of four). An additional 97
million people live in households earning less than
$47,700 for a family of four. When these numbers are
combined, 48 percent of the nations population is
classified as poor or low-income.
these statistics in mind, consider the following two
approaches as we gather around the Thanksgiving table to
kick off the winter holiday season.
out some time to spark a conversation around these
is our responsibility to help others in need among us?
we donate more money or volunteer more time in the
causes are most meaningful to us as a multigenerational
How can we serve as models of giving for our
children and grandchildren, or for our parents and
Since we have been blessed with "enough," is
there more we can do for others who have less?
the holiday season, families can choose to carve out a
portion of the money designated for gifts to each other
to be contributed to a common "family and
friends" cause to provide food and other basic
necessities for the less fortunate in our communities.
the result if each of us pledged to donate to a worthy
charitable cause just 10 percent of what we would
otherwise spend on holiday gifts, food and candy.
Instead of being spent on discretionary gifts, billions
of additional dollars would flow to nonprofit
organizations for the benefit of others.
pledge to give fewer material gifts to family, friends
and co-workers and a bit more money and time for the
benefit of those in need can bring families and other
social groups together with a shared purpose. It can
help children focus on giving as well as getting, spread
the true spirit of the season and make our community a
better place for everyone.
that what the winter holidays are all about?