Can we please have a holiday season free of heart-warming videos of poor kids getting charity gifts?
Christmas-gift-video season is almost upon us, so can we talk a minute? It may be a local news report or a video on Facebook, but in the next month you’re likely to come across a heart-warming video of needy kids getting Christmas gifts, their benefactors beaming proudly on the sidelines. Police departments seem to really like this kind of thing, but they’re not alone.
Can we not, please?
Watch all the heart-warming surprise Christmas puppy videos you want. But while I 100 percent encourage gifts for needy families (not just the kids in them, either), the giving of them shouldn’t be displayed for the world. The message here should not be “Look! I found a poor person and gave them stuff, because I’m awesome that way!” It definitely shouldn’t be “Look! I found a poor child and tormented them with a forced choice between their dream and their loved one’s dream,” unless you’re really a monster.
If your gift comes with the strings attached that the opening and enjoyment of it has to be done with an audience of not just the charity-giver, but of potentially tens of thousands of strangers on the internet, investigate your motives, because it seems awfully much like this is about you and not the recipient. But viewers of such videos are complicit, too.
Here’s my favorite model of giving: bring gifts to children’s parents and let them decide how to give them. Do they want their kids to believe Santa brought them something wonderful? Poor kids should get to believe that Santa exists and brought them something just as much as well-to-do ones. Do the parents want to give their kids something they couldn’t afford to buy themselves? I am happy to have a gift I donated given in a parent’s name. Let your charity be not just the gift itself but the right to decide how the family Christmas goes. Let children be children on Christmas morning, not dutifully grateful recipients of charity far enough ahead of Christmas to have a video circulated.
But do give, if you can. No, it won’t create the systemic change that’s most important to fight for. But sometimes it’s good just to make someone happy.