Being an Authentic Giver: An HP Printer Giveaway

A little over two weeks ago, I walked into Rite Aid on Halloween and the shelves that had since August been overflowing with masks and costumes were now cleared. Instead, in place of the ubiquitous "Scream" costumes I saw... Christmas decorations.

And the candy aisle? The Halloween candy had already been whisked away, replaced by chocolates wrapped in shiny red, green and silver tinfoil.

I'm not a grinch but I cringed, and not just because my candy corn hunt was a total bust. The thing is, as the days draw closer to Thanksgiving, so many people I know are more stressed than ever about the cascade of gifts and "Holiday Cheer" they're supposed to rain down on their loved ones.

Indeed, over the past few years going into serious debt and buying gifts for everybody you've ever crossed paths with (or looked at crooked) somehow became the "norm" for the Holiday season. But that was also before the major economic downturn rocked the nation. That was before thousands of layoffs went down every single month. That was before 401(k)s got wiped out and the value of furnished ATM machines, also known as homes, got annihilated. That was before grocery store food costs skyrocketed beyond control and buying a chai latte at Starbucks began to feel like a splurge.

Retailers are trying to lure us into stores with amazing sales, but the reality is that even if something's marked down 50% to $75, if I don't have $75, then I can't buy it. And so with this in mind, I had the good fortune to get invited to a get-together for bloggers sponsored by Hewlett Packard and Snapfish.

One of the themes of the evening was how we can each use the current economic climate as a springboard into creating more authentic, meaningful and inexpensive gifts for our friends and families. Photographer Tracey Clark of the fabulous photo blog Shutter Sisters gave a great presentation on taking unique pictures and designing your own personalized photo holiday cards. She has some great ideas and you're going to want to make cards that will be treasured for years rather than just buying a box of random holiday cards from the sale bin at your local Wal-Mart.

We also did some hands-on crafting and actually practiced how to decorate glass jars and paperweights using nothing but photos, printed paper ideas found in the Creative Studio on the HP site and ribbons and scissors. I'm not especially crafty but it was great fun to make this stuff and it didn't take much time.

The other great theme of the evening was that it opened a conversation about our concept of charitable giving. So often, the dynamic of giving to others is set up in such a manner that an inherent sense of superiority is subconsciously at play. We give money to those who need it and that somehow makes us socially, economically and culturally their betters. Another great blogger, artist and doula, Jen Lemen, came from the East Coast to talk about how everyone has a gift to give and how she discovered that through her friendship with a Rwandan mother and genocide survivor named Odette Umurerwa.

The story of how Jen befriended Odette and then went to Rwanda to see Odette's daughters because Odette could not, due to the politics of her refugee status, was absolutely inspiring. Jen shared how her blog readers donated money for the trip to Rwanda and more, and seeing her photos documenting her journey really touched my heart.

I needed a tissue as I saw the photos of Odette's two daughters that she's trying to get out of Rwanda. The spirit and energy visible in their faces reminded me that the understanding that we are all one human family connected by deeper bonds than our skin color, our nationalities or our stances on political issues, that is truly the gift that sustains us. Not the material things we each desire. Jen and Odette have collaborated on a book called "Let's Learn How to Help Ourselves and Others". The book is sold out right now but hopefully Jen and Odette will be able to get some more printed.

And, finally at the end of the night, I had the great fortune to win a little something to give away to you, my fellow bloggers and blog readers! It's an HP Photosmart C6380 all-in-one printer. It can print, scan, and copy! Sometimes an amazing and memorable photo is the best gift you can give someone. Just think, this is a chance for you to get some of those photos that have been languishing on your laptop actually printed and in somebody's hands!

Here's how to enter:
1) Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm on November 30, 2008, stating, in 100 words or less, how you plan to be a more authentic "giver" this Holiday Season.
2) If you link back to this contest on your own blog, and let me know you've done so in the comments, I'll give you a second entry as a freebie.
3) On December 1st, I'll read all the entries to my sons and they'll pick the one that sounds the most authentic and inspiring. I'll post the winner on December 2nd.
4) If you are related to me, you can't enter! But you can come to my house and hug me!
5) You have to live in the continental United States to win. I would love to ship this printer to one of you overseas readers, but the post office and my wallet are not friends.

So good luck to each of you and I look forward to reading about how you are going to be an authentic giver this year!


Great post.

I never understood the whole going broke during the holidays thing.
Miriam said…

I don't suppose you ship to Israel?
Kofi Bofah said…

HP makes the best printers.
BZ said…
I've never been into the material gifting thing. I give the gift of presence...making memories with loved ones that don't get returned to the store, put on the shelf in a closet, become outgrown. They live longer than we do and are more comfort to us than any one thing we could physically grasp.

I don't need the printer, really. I'm sure someone else could put it to greater use. But, I love the idea of your post.
Tafari said…
I would enter but I am not articulate enough. Just give it to me.

No seriously, a great idea, a generous idea!

Anonymous said…
I'm an Americorps VISTA, which is like being in the Peace Corps, only you stay in the US. I work for an affordable housing organization in a small town in Ohio. As a VISTA, I get a living allowance of less than $800 a month, so money is not something I have in abundance at any time of the year.

Due to some unexpected financial issues, I have found myself with no money for Christmas presents for my family (Mom, Dad, brother and SIL- it's a small family, and they're the only ones I give presents to). So, I'm going to write each of them a letter sharing some memories of things we've done together and telling them how much they mean to me. It's sappy (probably embarrassingly so), but while I don't have any cash, I do have words and a lot of love, and that I can share.
Anonymous said…
Technically everyone is related to you - so if I can't enter no one can!!!! Just kidding - cute idea!!
Anonymous said…
Great Post! I confess, I am one of those people gets caught up at Xmas time. I don't go broke doing it though...thus far. I set a certain amount and usually stay within my budget[or no more than $25 over]. I have 11 people to shop for...that's not including the gift I have to bring for Secret Santa at work. This year, I plan to make(sew)alot of the gifts I will give (PJ's, Wraps/Shawl etc.) The printer would be a great addition as I planned to make the younger children shirts with their pictures using the t-shirt transfer paper. Also, for the older members of the family, I planned to frame some scrapbook pages.
Great post! And I love HP Printers...Still got you linkied.
Henry said…
Lean times have fallen upon my family so last year we started a "no presents" policy. I expected to feel an emptiness, but I was so wrong . We had the best Christmas ever! So much energy went into raising the money for gifts and trying to find something the recipient wouldn't hate that we couldn't even enjoy the season. Now we're free to pour our time into visiting those we don't visit enough, baking treats for neighbors and giving time to the community. Having less has made me realize that I have alot!

Hope that didn't come off too "Pollyanna"! Thanks for sharing!
Liz Dwyer said…
Love these entries so far! For those of you who feel a little uncreative (Tafari) don't worry, you have a few days to make the words write themselves!
Ferocious Kitty said…

The event you attended sounds wonderful!

Please don't enter me in the contest, but I do want to share a little idea I have for keeping the holidays sane and proper around here. Instead of encouraging my kids to make wish lists of stuff they want for Christmas, we make lists of people to whom we'd like to give gifts, and for most of those on our list, the gifts are homemade--cookies one year; another year, batches of pre-made drink mixes (hot and cold) that we blended and packaged ourselves. You can do the same with beans and soup ingredients.

Jameil said…
This year is the first time in a few years that I've found myself without a steady job and therefore unable to give like I want to-- that means without going into debt (I don't believe in that) for Christmas, I try to gift those I love with things they really want even if it's something that costs a few dollars rather than a few hundred dollars. Giving is even more fun when you're forced to be creative. This year I look forward to doing just that! What's better than giving someone a fit they love that didn't cost an arm and a leg? NOTHING! I love Christmas!!!
Jen said…
Fabulous post, Liz. I'm not entering, but I do want to talk about what we do in our family each year. We give to the causes that each person supports. Period.

Young kids get toys. Folks who "need stuff" might get a gift certificate from all of us, but mostly, we give donations. It's fun and feels SO much better!

Sometimes it's funny, though. We have a HUGE woodpecker problem with our house. We think our house must just be the most delicious thing out there because they come in DROVES. We are constantly puttying up woodpecker holes. And my SIL? She doesn't know this, and she gave us a donation to save the spotted woodpecker. ROFL!
CarmenNC said…
Hello I’m Carmen and I have a low budget business. I have a printer but it does not work with the newer laptop that I have. I am able to use an older laptop to print labels. It’s not the best set up, but it looks better than hand writing the address. If I win the new printer, I will in turn donate my printer. Also, instead of sending holiday cards in the mail, I’m trying to go green by saving my customers a few dollars with free s/h for the holiday. Good luck to all that enter!
Sundry said…
What a cool idea. I'm finally catching up with my blog reading.

Yeah, I'm entering. What fun!

"I value experiences more than things I can buy. Since I usually have a camera with me wherever I go, I plan to make photo scrapbooks for friends and family who’ve shared adventures with me this year. Camping with Mom, crewing Jim’s drag racer, visiting New Mexico with Anna, exploring Catalina Island with cousins, hiking with Dana, hanging out at Sheila’s artsy house. We’ll celebrate these times together through pictures and writing. Being able to edit and print photos at home rather than ordering and retrieving them from the drug store would make this 100 times easier."

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