Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias We received a note from one of our readers that, ironically, arrived right after my family and I spent some time in Sioux Falls.

The author of the note suggested that I write an editorial about how important is to shop at home. Its timing couldn't have had more impact on me personally, because, I confess, my family dropped a small bit of change in the cash registers of Sioux Falls' merchants during our visit there.

Instead of attempting to write an editorial, I've decided to reprint the contents of the letter. It's a message that's definitely worth repeating:

"The end of this week (the day after Thanksgiving) will mark the biggest shopping day of the year. I know people can not always shop in town ? We read a lot on the business benefits of shopping in town. We also hear and read that shopping in town may cost more. I believe that sometimes we forget what the "Hometown Merchant" does for us each day of every year.

Your "Hometown Merchant"

He is the one who bought candy and other items from your school-aged children to support school projects.

He is the one who contributed to the charity you represent.

He is the one who sponsored your softball, baseball or youth team and paid for the uniforms.

He is the one who opened his store late at night for an item that was urgently needed by you.

He is the one who loaned you his car when yours was in the shop being repaired.

He is the one who has been one of your best and most patient creditors.

He is the one who listened quietly and did his best to help you when you mention the items you would like to see in his store.

He is the one whose daughter is in class with your son.

He is the one who gave your son his first job.

Since the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest Christmas shopping day of the year, most people must already have a good idea of what they will be buying for others.

Maybe the gift is not on the "Hometown Merchant's" shelf, but I am sure he would love an opportunity to order the item so you can have it in time for Christmas. After all, Christmas is still a month away."

**********

Looking to simplify your yuletide celebration? Alternatives for Simple Living offers these 10 tips for a simpler, more meaningful Christmas:

1. Plan ahead. Instead of going on auto-pilot the day after Thanksgiving, hold a family meeting to decide what the group really wants to do and who's going to do what.

2. If you need a symbol for giving (in addition to Jesus and the Wise Ones) learn about St. Nicholas. Santa Claus has been completely taken over by commerce.

3. Avoid debt. Refuse to be pressured by advertising to overspend.

4. Avoid stress. Give to yourself. Don't assume that things have to be the same as they've been.

5. Draw names rather than everyone giving something to everyone else in your giving circle. Set a ceiling for each recipient. Give children ONE thing they really want, rather than so many gifts. If need be, pool funds.

6. Give appropriate gifts. Get to know the recipient. Give what they need, not what you want to buy.

7. Give alternative gifts. Give 25 percent of what you spent last year to the truly needy ? individuals or groups locally, nationally or internationally. Buy crafts and clothing from developing countries at alternative gift markets, not from commercial importers, so that the artisans receive a fair price for their work. Give of yourself, not just "stuff" (such as baby-sitting or an "enchanted evening") or something baked, sewn, handmade, composed, etc.

8. Celebrate Advent for four weeks before Christmas.

9. Put the gifts under the tree shortly before opening them. Then take turns opening them, not all at once, so that each gift can be admired and each giver thanked.

10. Make changes slowly but persistently. Don't try to change everything and everybody all at once. The resistance may make you feel defeated and lonely.

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