Carter
Carter

This season is marketed as a time for gift giving. Have you found a way to navigate all the hype, the stress, the contradictions implied by such a consumer emphasis? I want to feel festive, not scrooge-like, but a swirl of conflicting thoughts keeps my mind unsettled.

Do any of my loved ones really need any more objects to add to their full lives? Have the expectations of gift buying outlived personal meaning or satisfaction? How much stuff is enough? What about all the people who do need basic necessities or perhaps a special treat to get them through the challenges of being outside a festive lifestyle?

Some families have moved toward drawing names for a gift exchange, or making matching charitable donations for every dollar they spend on people who already have “enough.” Others choose the gift of an experience rather than more stuff to find a place for.

As someone with enough resources to buy gifts without going into debt, I feel some tension over gifts that are practical, perhaps too boring, versus the excitement of something more special, if not extravagant. My grandkids, and even their parents, love new technology gadgets, and are likely to run up their credit cards to get them. I’ve been trying to move us toward gifts of time and help with an important project that never seems to get off the back burner: installing closet lights, organizing storage, researching scholarships, or completing important documents, such as medical power of attorney.

This year a new plan emerged: I’m going to get loved ones started on emergency supplies or improving what they have in their cars or home. In some cases, these will be basic things like first aid kits, water filters and sanitation supplies. For those I want to splurge on, good gifts might be useful tools, communication technology, perhaps a small solar panel or other solar or battery systems for lights, heat, or even an outdoor shower.

The Madison Park Hardware store has a list of things they carry or could order to prepare for emergencies. The bookstore has some related titles that are practical, along with engaging science-fiction reads. Humor is also a good read for dystopian times. Non-humorous titles recommended by City Disaster Book Club can be found here.

In one of their recent block house meetings, the Hillside Seattle Neighbors Actively Prepare (SNAP) groups recently had a show-and-tell table set up with examples of essential and fun finds to include in emergency kits. Some of these will definitely make it into my gift giving, along with instructions like those included in the coconut oil packets featured in their display.

I recognize that if emergency supplies are to be understood as a valued gift, I need to be playfully serious in how I package and offer it. For real, it’s a generous gift of time to source and assemble emergency supplies. The time it takes is one reason folks often never get to this task.

In assembling my own emergency supplies, I’ve been challenged to find the best way and place to store things. Perhaps for these supplies to be seriously set aside for future use, rather than randomly tossed into an existing storage closet, packaging and guidelines need to be part of the gift. If the person hasn’t already set up a system for emergency supplies, consider packaging gift items in a sturdy storage container labeled “emergency use only,” and include one or more of the survival tips instruction sheets available online. This will increase the value of this gift, not to mention the likelihood of it being easily put to use when an earthquake strikes.

If you review the emergency checklists offered in previous issues of Madison Park Times, you’ll remember that emergency supplies start with water first, toilet and sanitation second, and then on to a “Get Home Survival Bag” for your home and car.

Check the box included in this column for basic gift suggestions for each of these categories; some home-assembled and some commercially made.

Finally, outside of your own family and friends, consider giving a gift of needed supplies or monetary donation to purchase such items for our neighborhood emergency HUB communication box in Madison Park.

Donations, new or used and in good condition, include folding chairs, white boards, dry-erase boards and pens, flashlights and/or head lamps, leather gloves, hard hats, yellow and orange vests, zip ties and/or carabiners, and Velcro straps.

If you would like to arrange such a donation, please email Sarah at saraharmstrong215@gmail.com; Mary Beth at msimiele1@gmail.com or Margie at margiecarter@comcast.net.