Reflections on Consumption: The Gift Is In the Giving

November 3

Today, I took my son for a COVID test and bought him a small box of Minecraft Lego for being brave (he’d had the nostril swab in the summer and REALLY didn’t like it!). We didn’t technically ‘need’ to go. He just had some sniffles that were getting better. But, as I said to him, this isn’t about him, it’s about my Dad and the careworkers that come into our house and it’s about the students I see on Fridays that have immuno-compromised family members. While there were almost tears, he was laughing and high-fiving me by the time we were across the parking lot. Apparently, it wasn’t as bad this time. He also wanted some of his Hallowe-en chocolate, which he doles out to himself with admirable self-restraint.

Lego is one of those toys, I don’t feel bad about buying. I gave my son my lego from when I was young. I don’t like that it’s plastic but, as toys go, it sure has staying power! I also love the creativity that my son indulges in with it. While he always builds the set, within days, he’s altered it to make something new. This is what I look for in toys.

Looking a little deeper into Lego, in addition to being something that is passed down to other kids, they are also in partnership with the WWF to produce a more sustainable product by 2030 and sustainable packaging by 2025 (https://www.lego.com/en-us/aboutus/sustainability/environment/).

I also bought a book for a friend’s kid that wasn’t feeling well and delivered it. Gifts are important and books are wonderful as they can be treasured in people’s shelves like old friends or given to others as one outgrows them.

Still, both these gifts were bought and not made. Did I really need to get my son some Lego? Probably not. Etzioni’s comments in You don’t need to buy this(2012) are clearly in my mind. My son’s resilience does not need bolstering by Lego. And here, perhaps, I need to think more closely about what a gift is and where gifts should be given. I am much struck by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s (2013) discussions of reciprocity throughout her book, Braiding Sweetgrass. I had reasoned with my son that going for the COVID test was not for him but for the reassurance of others. Was a gift needed in return? Or was the gift in the giving? Something to ponder.

I turned my phone to DND at dinner and checked it at an appropriate time after dinner. This helped to focus energies on family and on shifting from the day’s activities and responsibilities to night-time care. As a whole, I am sleeping better.

References:

Etzioni, Amitai (September 2012). You don’t need to buy this. YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN3z8gtDUFE

Kimmerer, Robin Wall (2013). Braiding sweetgrass. Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants. Milkweed editions.

Lego (2020). Environment. Lego.com. https://www.lego.com/en-us/aboutus/sustainability/environment/

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