It is important to shop with your conscience, don’t you agree? Especially now, with holidays looming and so much going on, it matters to spend in a way that is consistent with your values. Running out to the nearest big-box store or making online purchases from large chains may be cheaper and quicker, but is that simply spending money for the sake of getting things over and done? And where is the joy in that? So…what can you do right now instead, especially when the holidays are really upon us and time is scarce?
When I was a child we didn’t have a lot of money in the family and my graduate student mother used to take us to do our Christmas shopping at what I recollect was a Unicef Store (I checked online and they don’t seem to still exist, so it might have been something else…?). We had a small budget and the world at our fingertips in this magical place. My mom, who was a bit of a hippie, would talk to us about things like world health and intercultural appreciation as we made our choices. I still remember this experience with love and I still remember some of the gifts that I gave and received.
Holiday gifts should always inspire memories, I think. Even if it’s a token courtesy gift, it really is the thought that counts. Creativity is charming, and if you can give something that gives back, you are that much more enriched in so doing. Don’t you think so? But how can you find something within your budget that is a joy to give and that will give back to more than just the recipient? Keep reading and don’t despair! Herein (at least my hope is that) you’ll find some heart-felt ideas that might make this a lot more fun for you and for your recipient.
~~~Feed and other online treasures~~~
If you are truly in a rush right now, there are some wonderful online sources for meaningful gift-giving. These include but are not limited to:
Food gifts both tangible and intangible are always a joy. I personally love FEED bags and carry them always. When you buy a gift from FEED you are helping others to eat. Take a look, here, and then if you like, consider a book written by one of their founders that I reviewed here (and the other two books I reviewed in that essay are also gems). If you want to give actual food, you might look at the Women’s Bean Project. This is a collective that helps formerly homeless and otherwise disadvantaged women learn a job skill and get back on their feet. They are the sweetest people. I won a bag of bean soup mix from them, loved the product and wrote a post about it (here, right below the section on the Spartan race). They were so appreciative and humble and kind in response. These are real people and they derive real benefit from your purchase. In addition, their products are wonderful. Try them and see!
You might also consider Uncommon Goods for a wide variety of gift-giving possibilities. I think what I like best about them is how they have their product vendors’ stories up on their blog, they offer scholarships to design students, and they list their pet causes so that you can see what it is that you are supporting. Another really good one is Piece by Piece, an organization that teaches mosaic art to underserved Los Angeles populations and brokers the sale of their goods. Take time to explore their web site and have tissues handy because their narrative will touch your heart. A gift from them is a gift that truly blossoms.
~~~Gift cards from yours truly~~~
Giving a wellness-related gift card is always a great idea and mine are truly a joy. There are online options, of course. I also made beautiful, small-batch cards for health coaching, facial rejuvenation treatments, and for non-specified traditional Chinese bodywork sessions that could be used for anything from a tui na session or ear seeds and consultation to cupping or gua sha. Your choice! I’m quite proud of the cards themselves (and sincerely grateful to the owner of Southside Printing for his patience in helping me to make my vision for these cards a reality). I am a real person, and a sincere one. As a business owner I will be patient with you, too, as you make your choice for your gift. If you aren’t sure what you want or you are thinking of making the card part of larger present, I will be happy to converse with you about ways to make your gift of wellness something extra special.
If you or your recipient knows about traditional Chinese medicine, then you already know that tui na is somewhat like massage and very like acupuncture without the needles. If you have time, read my blog post about tui na’s benefits here; also, if you wish, look at my essay on Chinese beauty treatments, here. Either a beauty treatment or bodywork can be marvelous, and I offer more than tui na (On edit: if you are reading this after after 2018? Yes, I am now a licensed acupuncturist and acupuncture treatment is, in my estimation, a wondrous gift indeed). Do you remember the circles on the shoulders of the Olympic athletes? That’s cupping, and you can gift a cupping session if you prefer (naturally, there’s a blog post for that, too). For health coaching, you definitely want to look at my blog post, here, and see what kind of coach I am and then chat with me about what I can do for your recipient. I will happily assist you to decide how to give just the right gift of health coaching to a loved one.
To purchase a card, either make an online purchase or contact me here and I’ll send it to you. Select your gift from my menu of services and send me an email telling me what you want. I’ll email you an invoice to pay online with a code, and when you pay the invoice your card is activated in my system and I can send you (or if you’re local, you can pick up) a card if you prefer that to the online option. It’s that easy!
If you don’t want to give a thing or an experience, maybe your best bet is a donation to a service or organization that will support your recipients’ dearest values. The one I like this year can be found at the International Rescue Committee. With the world crisis situations we see on the news tugging at our hearts, it can make for a meaningful gift to give to this group. They even have a special page that shows you where you can send your money and how it will be used, here. If you want to keep it local, then find your nearest animal shelter or other giving-based business and see about donating therein. Another one that is so timely at this moment is Animal Advocates in Los Angeles. The fires in that area mean that wildlife rehab organizations like this are going to be busy and in need of extra support. I think that a beautiful gift could be notice of a donation to them combined with another gift, like a teddy bear for a child or a coffee table book about wild creatures for an adult, for example. What do you think?
Not everyone needs things, and if you really want to be creative, maybe you could volunteer your time at a local shelter or service organization and do so in the name of your gift recipient. Your time and labor are gifts too and, depending on the person, this may be a lovely idea.
Donation-based gifts are not going to be for everyone and there is nothing wrong with that. They’re great for people who are hard to shop for and who have everything already but that is a certain population and doesn’t speak to everyone. So if you don’t want to donate, it’s too late to go online, and your recipient isn’t in Austin so a gift card for my services wouldn’t do, then what next?
Whenever possible, it’s good to shop local, don’t you agree? Myself, I honestly never really thought about it before I became a small business consisting of just one person: me. Sure, I preferred to shop at small stores and I unthinkingly supported the notion of buying from homegrown organizations but really…I didn’t think too hard about it. Now, though, I have so much respect and a genuine sense of solidarity with the local business community. It takes work, grit, and determination to build and maintain your own business. Whenever possible, I reward this gumption with my purchasing dollars. If I can do it, I try to spend at places that reflect my love of not just art, literature, fashion, and all things holistic health-related but also my deep commitment to social justice and human rights. Not all businesses reflect my every value and preference, obviously, but I avoid ones that are simply antithetical to what I feel is decent and honest and correct. For each person, that is different, of course, but we can all agree that there is a good feeling that goes along with shopping local and at at spending your money on small businesses owned by real people who will speak to you and who will sincerely care about your happiness with the product or service.
Are you in Austin? If so, one very sweet place is Ten Thousand Villages, here. It’s the closest I know the Christmas shopping I remember as a child and described at the beginning of this essay. They used to be on South Congress but had to move up to Burnet; no matter, they are worth the drive and the new store is bigger and nicer than the old space. If you want to go to South Congress, and you want to find everything from the best boots in Texas to lovely smaller gifts like wallets, purses, and belts, try Heritage Boot. That is a shopping experience to remember always, and if you would like to read my interview of owner Jerry Ryan, go here. He’s a local treasure and his boots are gems, each and every pair. And while mentioning people here in town who I like a lot and whose businesses are indeed quite fun, do allow me to suggest revolution spirits, here. If you want a bottle of something truly charming and most excellent, you definitely want to give them consideration.
Wherever you are…be creative! I could go on and on, but if you ponder it, surely there is some small business near you where you could find a great gift. Take the time to enjoy chatting with the business owner–I’ll bet they are present, interested, and interesting. In so doing, you can make gift buying fun, and maybe even gain a greater sense of community in your neighborhood or local area. And then, when you give your gift, you will see how much the recipient will love it. People know when the gift is mindful and sincere. Your recipient will know, and will appreciate your time and thoughtfulness.
And while I am on the subject? Dear reader, YOU are a gift. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog posts. To those who have been with me for a while now, I thank you for supporting me as a student intern and now as a small business owner, and very soon (one board exam left to go; one!), a licensed acupuncturist. (Update: If you’re reading this after spring 2018…yes, I am now a licensed acupuncturist!) I look forward to a healthy new year with many more blog posts, lots of herbal wonder, and to acupuncture being a part of my existing practice once again. Thank you for being around to share this journey, and I welcome and appreciate your presence as my local practice grows and thrives.
What are you looking forward to in the upcoming year?
Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, an AOBTA-CP traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. She maintains an active and growing practice at her Austin, TX offices. Dr. Bruno is also available for distance appointments for wellness consultation or coaching.
In her first career, she was a Spanish professor.
Dr. Bruno’s specialties as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner include: • Musculoskeletal health (acute or chronic pain relief; Ehlers Danlos syndrome & hypermobility support) • Digestive support, gut health, and weight loss • Aesthetic treatment, including scar revision • Men’s health • General preventative care and immune support for all persons.
Note: Material on this web site is not intended to replace your treatment or care provided by an MD. It is for educational/entertainment purposes only. A TCM practitioner in Texas identifies syndrome patterns but does not diagnose illness. Always consult your primary care doctor for health concerns.