Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, December 2, 2019.

I have this simple blade coffee grinder that I use for grinding flax seeds. It lost a knob during one of our many moves, but it still works. No points for looking pretty though. We also have another basic blade coffee grinder, which has all parts and has been fully functional for the last 20 years (OK, we had to sharpen the blade a couple of times). Donating either in favour of new ones might just mean the end of the road for both, since they look past their prime. And then again, why would we? They work just fine.

I often decried the scarcity of ‘cradle to grave’ household items in our present life, and yet, some still exist. Hence the question that needs to be asked: Do most people really want their household items, or personal use ones such as computers and cell phones for example, to last a long time? Or is the allure of new ones enough to forgo the moral obligation to make the best of resources before we seek to buy more.

Based on the heaps of papers that were waiting to be distributed last Wednesday afternoon by my youngest after he finished school, I’d say the latter is winning. And when I say heaps of paper, I mean it. There was a real obstacle course in our entrance hallway: one tall stack of newspapers (with lots of flyers included,) and for each of the newspapers, there was an extra bunch of flyers in a separate stack, almost as tall. From now until after New Year’s, we’ll be buried in flyers and sales.

Buy; buy more; buy way more than you need and more than you can afford. Some can argue that if you have limited financial resources sales can help. Perhaps, but let’s not kid ourselves. That is not who the sales are for. They are not an act of charity by any means. And let’s not forget the other side of this tsunami of products…unless products are certified fair-trade, they are mostly made by people who work for barely any money, and below humane conditions. Like it or not, big sales come with a huge price tag.

We are already dealing with a troubling volume of garbage that keeps on growing; buying more stuff which will generate more garbage does not make any sense. We are running out of spaces to deposit trash, and a lot of it is anything but trash (think food and still usable items.)

A world of opposites has never been more evident. We know that microplastics are everywhere and we know how they come to be, yet more plastic, synthetic clothing included, are being produced and marketed without an end in sight. Stores sell ‘green’ products and on nearby shelves, the very opposite. Gift wrapping in what is to become garbage soon after Christmas morning is still offered as an option, just like so many other single-use items, plastics included. Convenience and want-versus-need trump everything, including the ability to see reality for what it is (for example, that we are drowning in garbage.)

That we need less stuff is an understatement. What we need is more time to just be, more compassion towards fellow humans and the rest of the living world, a more solid moral commitment to preserve the beauty of nature. Neither can be bought or put on sale.

It is heartbreaking to think that in a society that is suffering from too much stuff, there are still too many who do not have the basics. That is unthinkable. Let’s take care of that as much as we can this year, like we did other years too. Anything helps, no matter how little one can afford. Let’s all remember to donate whenever possible at one of the many Salvation Army Red Kettle collection points manned by smiling volunteers (a big thank you to them and their determination to brave the weather and avoiding gazes too…) and also help the local charities needing our help through the Christmas Cheer Fund.

We already know this too well: no object will ever compensate for what’s missing inside one’s heart, no mater how good the price. It’s been said to death because it’s true: holidays are not about things but relationships; about humanity showing itself through acts of goodness. That means smiles too and random acts of goodness that restore hope people’s hope in humanity. That we need lots of, every day of the year.