The Reason for the Season: George the Goat

I love Christmas.  I do.  It is, in fact, the most wonderful time of the year.  At least, it’s the most wonderful time of the year when you’re sitting on your couch, listening to Christmas carols while gazing fondly at your Christmas tree.

The reality is, though, you have about ten minutes to do that.  Usually on Christmas night.  After the pandemonium.  And when you’re lying prostrate in a Christmas cake stupor.

Before that, though—if you’re like me—you’re freaking out.  You’re trying to find thoughtful gifts that are *just* right for the people who you want to give them to.  You may even be attempting arts and crafts projects that are made to look “Oh So Simple!” in the glossy magazine spread, but which in your clumsy, left-handed fingers, looks like art therapy on anger day.

Okay.  Maybe I’m talking about myself.  Okay, yes.  I am talking about myself.

I have experienced a greater-than-average amount of holiday anxiety this year, all of which can be put down to the goat.

Let me explain.

I would like to believe that I am a good gift-giver.  I don’t think I am, though.  That is not to say that my gifts are not thoughtful—they are.  They just don’t always … work.  I fear that I will be the aunt who gives her unfortunate nephew a fuzzy bunny suit one year.  You know, because he’s into bunnies, it’s cold, and it’s adorable.  This was never brought home to me more so than when having to find a gift for T’s oldest brother as part of the family Christmas draw.  What do you give a guy you don’t know and who lives far, far away?

Apparently, you give him a goat.

I really dig the Oxfam Christmas gift project.  Instead of just making donations to causes in your friends’ names and sending them a little note saying you’ve done so, you buy them goats.  Or water.  Or domestic violence prevention.  Or soap.  You make the donation to Oxfam, and they give you a cheeky little card to give the person in whose name you made the donation.  I admit it.  I was taken with the goat.  Wouldn’t you be?  Look at that face!  It’s the face of George, the goat.  George, the life-giving goat that goes to Papua New Guinea and gives a family nourishment, the chance of baby goats, and a way out of extreme poverty.

I wrote out a funny card that included a reference to goat poo.

I was very pleased with George.

Until someone mentioned that giving someone a goat like this (who had not asked for one) is little bit like foisting your idea of charity on them.  It was an off-hand comment, not meant to be anything more than, well, an off-hand comment.

Did I absorb it as an off-hand comment? No.  Of course not.  Instead, I went into a silent anxiety spiral.

“Oh God.  OH GOD!” I thought to myself.  “I’ve given the poor man a goat!  A GOAT!  Who wants a goat?!?!”

How do you fix giving someone a goat?

You give him woolly slipper socks.  Apparently.  But solely for the purpose of then being able to say (to yourself, of course):

“OH GOD!  I’ve given him a goat AND socks!  A goat and SOCKS??? What was I thinking??”

I mentioned this to a few friends and these people—people who didn’t even know who I was talking about—immediately came up with at least five good present options. Five.  None of which involved goats or socks.

I shot each of them a scornful glance full of reproach.  Where were they when I was buying the goat??

I sorted it in the end (reluctantly relying on one of the five suggestions) (and yes, the goat is still part of the equation), but I had some serious feelings of gift-anxiety for a while.

Now, before people start hopping up and down that this is exactly what’s wrong with Christmas, I have gift-anxiety in every possible situation.  From the “should I?” to the “shouldn’t I?” to the “This?” or the “That?”  It’s not limited to Christmas. It’s birthdays, weddings, house warmings, going away luncheons, anniversaries–the list is endless.  And it’s not about expense, either.  Some of the best gifts I ever found were ridiculously cheap, but they seemed perfect.  For me, it’s about finding something that says, “Hey.  I know you.  I pay attention to you. You mean something to me.” Maybe that’s the real issue–the not knowing.  I suspect my narcissistic level of self-imposed anxiety has more to do with wishing I knew T’s brother better.  It really doesn’t have anything to do with the goat.

When I really think about it, people are usually just happy to be remembered.  They’re happy that you’ve made an effort, no matter what that effort is.  The simple act of giving shows them that you care. And perhaps, George the Goat really is the best gift of all.  Maybe he really is the reason for the season.

Live long, George.  Live long.

Looking mighty fine, George. Mighty fine, indeed. (courtesy of the oxfam website)


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