Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Giving at Christmas

Howdy from Doha. I'm here for the week kicking off a new project with my client here. I'm jetlagged, cranky, have an upset stomach, and am getting a little emotional. So of course, lets blog!

December is a weird time to be in the Middle East; it's really sunny and warm during the day, the adhan sounds at regular intervals, you subsist on hummus and tabbouleh, and yet there are Christmas trees and wreaths adorning the insides of hotels and other Western-expat type areas and canned Christmas music everywhere you turn. Once the sun sets, it's actually cold and you find yourself wrapped in a sweater just like in London, only sitting in a restaurant eating mezze with a lot of berobed people. It's an odd experience to be receiving festive holiday emails and invites and cheer in my via email while in a sandy desert city – and I can't imagine what it's like to be here, away from family and friends, for an extended or established period of time during the holidays.

So while I'm here experiencing a strange out of body experience, I learned that my company is organising a gift tree in aid of Camila Batmanghelidjh's Charity Kids Company. She selflessly gives up her Christmas celebration every year to host a big meal and party for 7,500 lonely kids who wouldn't otherwise have a holiday. She has also teamed up with John Lewis to create a Wish List of toys for the kids she serves (list number 525473, if you're interested) that members of the public can donate. An email came around with the information, and a suggestion that we try to pool our funds together to buy some of the more expensive toys for the kids.

I clicked on the wishlist out of curiosity, and as I looked through the selection of toys I started welling up. Maybe it's the work stress, maybe it's the tiredness, maybe it's hearing canned versions of Disney theme songs constantly from the beach outside, maybe it's reading too much about the Royal Bump, but I got really emotional looking at all of those toys picked out for kids whose parents just can't give them a proper Christmas. Nothing on that list is over £65, which I think made me even more sad – I work for a fancy branding agency that charges a lot of money to clients for our work, and we employees take home rather good salaries for our industry, and we can't afford, each of us, to give some kids some gifts that will hopefully make them think that each of them are special just for one day? I just felt, in some part of me, a big injustice and a need to do something.

So I've decided: of course I will buy some gifts, myself, to donate for these special kids, but also I am going to ensure that in my budget moving forward I keep aside some money for charity. Despite my self-pitying laments that I am "always broke" and "can't afford xx or yy," in reality I am much better off than so many others. As I go about this holiday season buying gifts for my loved ones, I want to remember that the joy of giving is not just about presents but about making life better for everyone.

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