We love to eat.
(I’m referring to my husband, Les, and me, but maybe it’s true for you too.)
We love to go out to restaurants, to try new dishes, new flavors, new ethnic dishes. And we have some old favorites, too, restaurants and dishes we return to again and again.
Anyone who has gotten into a conversation with me about finances and credit cards knows that we charge everything, pay it off every month, and then cash in the points to get restaurant gift cards.
The Covid debacle of 2020 and our move have produced a dilemma.
We live too far from any of the chain restaurants to use our earned cards for takeout. The food would be grossly congealed or soggy. And while we’ve done some dine-in meals over the last few months, we are getting more and more cautious again as those Covid numbers rise.
It’s resulted in a surplus of gift cards. (Don’t worry, we’ve come up with other ways to use our points so we don’t keep adding to the stash.) I’m hopeful that some day we will enjoy a season of using them all, but, for now, more restaurant gift cards aren’t on my Christmas wish list.
So what about Christmas?
We live far from our families. I cannot honestly tell you how many years it’s been since we had Christmas with our daughter and her family. I’m pretty sure it’s been decades since we had one with my siblings. We’ve had a few more with Les’s mom and sister over the years.
A long time ago we stopped sending actual presents, even to the kids. Gift cards became the best way to get something for someone when you had no idea what they had already. They weren’t always restaurant cards (the readers and kids often got Barnes & Noble cards), but restaurants were usually welcomed by all.
This year, most of us don’t need even those.
Not to worry. More than a decade ago, we switched to gifts that give back. We make a donation in someone’s honor to a charitable organization. We try to match the organization with an interest of the person or family. We asked our family to do the same for us. (Some listened, some didn’t. We kept on.)
For the last several years we’ve picked out our “gifts” at the Lancaster Gifts That Give Hope alternative gift fair. It was always a fun day. We wondered if we would get there this year, since we moved, but like everything else in 2020, the fair migrated online. Technically the fair took place last Saturday, but since it’s virtual, I can still order gifts from 30 different organizations. And so can you! The site includes local groups, like Aaron’s Acres, and international ones, like Hope International and Church World Service (CWS).
For each gift donation purchased, the all-volunteer team at Gifts That Give Hope will send you within 5 days a greeting card, envelope and gift insert that describes the donation you purchased in your friend or family member’s honor.
Your favorite charity probably offers an honorary gift option too. For instance, Heifer International has a gift catalog where you can choose to donate animals like chicks or an alpaca to a family in need around the world. Your kids or grandkids can have fun with that one! With World Relief you can help immigrant families adjust to a new life or assist a village in preparing for disasters.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that some of the things we thought were essential are not, maybe even restaurant gift cards.
But human connection matters. Alternative gifts allow you to connect both to your honored recipient and to a person who needs you. And that tastes pretty wonderful.