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A Holiday Shopping Game

Remember when gift-giving was about choosing the right gift–a special gift–for that special person and anticipating their joy and surprise? Does it seem that now you’re just exchanging cash and gift cards, shopping with a computer instead of people? Do you wonder what happened to the personal, human touch, the joyful interaction?

One Christmas, as Eva watched her grandchildren tear into one gift after another, casting each aside for the next, she wished for a more personal, shared connection with them during the holidays.

As she thought about it over the next few months, an idea began to grow and by the following Christmas season she was ready to test it. Checking with their parents about gifts they were giving the children, she then picked up the kids on a December Saturday. Before getting out of the car at the mall, each child was given an envelope of cash and a pen.

The rules of the game were as follows: They were to walk the length of the mall together, visiting their favorite stores and selecting purchases. Then came the hard part. They weren’t allowed to buy anything–yet. On their envelopes they were to write down the item(s) they wanted, the prices, and the store name. If the lists got out of hand, Eva would bring some common sense into play.

After scoping out the stores, they sat down together to figure out how much their prospective purchases would cost, comparing that total with the cash in their envelopes. It meant making some hard choices, (a lesson we’ve all had to learn), and of course, allowing for tax.

Once having decided what they could and couldn’t live without, it was back into the stores to make their purchases.

When all purchases were completed, they were to put a portion of any leftover money into the Salvation Army Kettle. Then it was off to meet with Grandpa for a meal at their favorite restaurant.

Eva felt that a little worn patience and weariness was small price to pay for the children’s day of joy and enthusiasm. Her idea was a success that became an annual tradition as the grandchildren were growing up. She cherished this time with them, and they weren’t disappointed that these gifts came early. Nor were they aware that they had been given a small lesson in money management and decision-making.

Eva says, “These shopping trips were wonderful opportunities for the kids and me to bond, to get to know each other away from the distractions of ball games, school programs, music and dance recitals, large family gatherings, and those intrusive, ever-present electronics. There are no losers in this game.”

Here’s wishing all of you a warm and happy holiday season, complete with opportunities for shared joy.

Article by Constance Watkins