Spend Once. Give Twice.

Megan Cornwell, Community Member 

I married into a big family that was extra big on Christmas. 

My family of origin was small and spread out across the country. Parties were intimate, dinners were small and gift giving was often reserved for children and immediate family only.  My husband, however, came from a large tight-knit farming family. Every occasion was cause for a family celebration – and very often, gift giving ensued. 

I wanted to do my part – to contribute to the tradition of gift giving in the kind and generous family I had joined. I wanted to be generous and joyful in my participation. In my mind, each gift was going to be Facebook-worthy and wrapped in Pinterest-inspired adornment. 

The reality fell a bit short of joyful (I cried at the mall one year). Between raising my tiny humans and working full time, I found myself absentmindedly buying for the sake of buying. And it didn’t feel good. I feared my lack luster selections sat unused on shelves, added to landfill, and contributed to the mindless consumerism I was increasingly conscious of. And while I spent a pile of cash every year, it wasn’t going anywhere that felt meaningful to me or the recipient.

Fast forward a few years and this same extended family had intentional conversations about our gift giving. It was a beloved part of the Christmas tradition – but could we do it differently? We shifted our focus to buying Canadian, and then to buying local, and most recently to buying consumable gifts – made locally. Consumable for us, meant capable of being “used up.” No garbage, no clutter. 

The next evolution in holiday shopping has been the most satisfying. Various local organizations have been shining the light on social enterprise – businesses that do social good. Our city is full of them! And they conveniently offer the coolest gift giving options at this time of year. While laundry soap may seem like an odd gift choice – my mother-in-law loved the lavender products from For the Love of Laundry. More importantly she loved the story behind the business, and the fact that my purchase supported a female entrepreneur who in turn offers free laundry events for people in need. 

You can buy jewellery from My Sisters’ Place, preserves from Youth Opportunities Unlimited and entire gourmet meals from Meals on Wheels.  For the person who has everything – and indeed too much of everything – you can even order up some junk removal from Impact Junk Solutions – a social enterprise of Canadian Mental Health Association Middlesex. 

My focus on buying local and supporting social enterprise has reinvigorated my Christmas spirit, introduced me to some of the coolest, most creative folks in the city and allowed me to “spend once, give twice.”

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