Judging from how more crowded the streets of 5th Avenue were compared to the relative desolation of this past Sunday morning at the Harlem churches, I think I can officially declare that America’s new religion is Consumerism.

I walked into Best Buy to look for a pair of headphones, and I saw a father shouting at his son “Fuck you! You never leave like that again! FUCK YOU!” It was a little jarring – not quite pepper spray, but my own taste of shopping rage. Is that what the holiday season is about? The streets were packed – stress was everywhere, women dressed in fashionable clothes holding 8-10 bags. Why? Who needs all this stuff. I was merely heading from the library – which was mostly empty – to a non-chain cafe – also relatively empty.

It’s now been several years since I bought anyone a Christmas gift – and receiving them has been none more often. It was so remarkably easy to cut myself off from the chaos that I saw today that, now, I almost forget that it still exists. Caring and thoughtfulness in my mind outweighs gifts anyday. I tell friends, if you really want to give me something, make me dinner! (or take me to a good restaurant) Then, we can spend time together.

My parents never expect any gifts from me, and nowadays, I don’t from them. I know that they really only want one thing from me anyway – to spend time with them. No gift can replace that.

How did Christmas and Consumerism become so intertwined – and how did Consumerism win? And why are we letting this dread spread throughout the world? As someone who cares about poverty and social issues…its amazing to think how, if we just took a day off from shopping and instead used that money to help society, how many problems we could solve. Compare the advertising budgets of retailers with the entire budgets of most non-profits and you’ll see a society that has its priorities completely wrong.

But if it were that easy to break an addiction…

PS – if you want to break that cycle and give a meaningful gift, how about about a Kiva gift card?

Learn how to travel meaningfully


Enter your email and I'll send you a free digital copy of The Nomad’s Guide to Life and Travel.

You will also get once-quarterly updates on my latest projects and other goodies.

You're in! Check your email to confirm and download the eguide