Attack of the "Gimme Bug"!

How our family wards off holiday greed

Several years, as the holidays approached, I read an article detailing a "disease" running wild in America. It's called affluenza, a term a sociologist coined to describe our country's insatiable appetite for material consumption. While affluenza's prevalent year round, the "gimme bug" is epidemic as Christmas approaches.

As extravagant Christmas trees emerged in store windows and holiday music cackled from loudspeakers, the threat of affluenza weighed on my mind. Surely my children—one-year-old Elizabeth and three-year-old Lukas— weren't victims of this disease. "Besides," I said in an effort to ease my mind, "they never seem to have as many toys as the kids next door." The thought brought momentary comfort, but as I looked more closely at my family, I couldn't ignore a nagging feeling I was wrong.

In the corner of my son's room stood an overstuffed toy box. Downstairs in the playroom, many of last year's hottest Christmas gifts gathered dust. Baby toys and rattles discarded by my daughter now were claimed by our new puppy. Horrified, I realized our one-salary, struggling-to-stick-to-our-frugal-budget, average family had fallen prey to the nation's epidemic.

As the weeks passed, my mind became a film reel of memories. An embarrassing image of my children on a previous Christmas day shuffled to the forefront. We'd just finished the gift exchange at Grandma's. The children were buried beneath brightly colored wrapping paper and shiny metallic bows. Surrounded by towers of flashy new toys, my then two-year-old son had dared to ask, "Is that all?" Oh, yes, affluenza had struck before!

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