There’s something so magical about New York in December. The whole city is buzzing with the excitement of the holidays. Everything is bright and glowing; I don’t even mind the freezing temperatures or the obnoxious tourists because when December arrives, all of the the things that I hate about living in NY dissolve into this general air of merriment.
And of course, that sense of euphoria is accompanied by one important behavior: consumption. When December rolls around, we’re spending, eating, imbibing more. Our joy is correlated to our role as consumers — the more we spend, the happier we are. The higher the price tag on that gift for that special someone, the more she’ll know how much I love her.
When January 2nd rolls around, the magic dissipates, and we’re counting the days for the next big reason to spend: a birthday, another holiday, a wedding. We have been conditioned to equate spending with happiness.
My mother has this wonderful saying; whenever we have a surprise guest over, she’ll say “le vamos a tener que hechar más agua a la sopa,” which translates to: we’ll have to add more water to the soup. Back in Colombia, when you’re cooking a meal it’s customary to make a little extra, just in case you have an unexpected guest knocking at your door. Even in the poorest households, you always make sure to cook a little extra rice and beans, or you add water to the soup to make sure that everyone has a full belly at the end of the night.
This is the spirit of generosity I was taught as a child: give even when it seems impossible. And this is how I love.
Don’t get me wrong. I love spending on my loved ones, and I definitely love receiving as well. This is not meant to be a critique of our consumerist culture – not directly at least. What I have noticed is that our ability to give has been reduced to objects that will inevitably collect dust and be forgotten.
We live in a time when it is so easy to become complacent when it comes to one another. We don’t need to be selfish with our love or our time. Of course, I do not mean that we must always overextend ourselves. We do need to protect our energy after all. At the same time, we should not allow our acts of expressing love, of giving to be reduced to a price tag.
For 2018, I’m challenging myself to give authentically, to connect more deeply, to stop buying love and instead dig deeper and give it.