Nov 302008
Authors: Anne Marie Merline

Finals season is finally hitting the CSU campus.

Of course, after we all get done with our classes, our finals, our projects and our papers, we all will rush home for the holidays. For many of us, our winter celebrations come with the expectations of giving gifts to others that we love.

As I am planning my spring honors seminar on consumerism and the effects on the environment, my plea is that you plan your gift giving in a different way this year.

I have been thinking about writing this column for a year and a half, and now that the holiday season is upon us again, it is time. My plea for you is for you not to buy but to do.

The usual scenario is for the holiday season is to make a list of people that you need to buy gifts for and to go out and fill in the slots besides each name with a wonderful deal thanks to your not-so-local big-box store. Or for the discerning consumer, your local overpriced boutique.

In this spring seminar that I teach to second-semester students, I try to get to the heart of the matter: quality of life.

Yes, I too have been lured into the mindset that I cannot live without my laptop, or that my iTouch is much better than my iPod from the year before. Heck, I even got a new cell phone last month (granted, my old phone’s ability to be charged on any given day was as predictable as the weather here in Colorado).

It is virtually recognized that we need this technology like my grandparents needed a washer and dryer, a television set and a landline in more than one room in the house.

I am not a Luddite in these affairs, nor am I a poster child for the least amount of money spent in any given year on American soil.

My point is, in the spirit of giving, why not try something more meaningful this year?

As I was helping Joni Martin, my son Benjamin’s third grade teacher at Dunn Elementary, last week, the hand-made calendars the students are in the process of making offered me some thoughts for this column. On the December page, there are “gifts” that each student is giving his/her family for Christmas.

Here in the minds of Fort Collins’ 8-year olds, are the thoughts of sages. Many offered gifts of love — just pure love for Christmas.

Others were more specific, “keep my room clean for a month,” an idea to bring breakfast in bed to his/her mother and an offer to walk the dog for a week.

My favorite gift from one boy: He is going to let his brother beat him up.

Here we have acts of pure giving. Nothing that comes from a store, no money changing hands, just pure acts of giving.

I am sure that you can think of an act that someone in your family would enjoy.

How about cleaning out your brother or sister’s car? Bringing a friend to a movie and splurge for some popcorn. Help your parent sort out some of the pictures for a photo album that has waited to be done for the last 12 years. Bake some cookies for your best friend. Write a meaningful letter to someone who will appreciate your sentiments.

Do something kind for the people you love. Show them your effort, and that way your Visa bill will not show you the bad news in January. enables you to pick a country and cause to donate to. Remember, that while a nice new sweater might bring someone a smile and a thank you, there are so many in the world who need the basics to survive.

We are lucky enough to have access to food, shelter, clothing, clean water and medical care. There are some who need these “gifts” just to survive.

Anne Marie Merline is an instructor for the University Honors Program. Her column appears biweekly Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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