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Regift or donate?

It’s the afternoon before Christmas and you are alone at the office, finishing some urgent work. A courier arrives with a gift basket. Normally your office donates gift baskets to the local food bank. But you haven't bought anything for your mother yet, and she would love this. Time is short. What do you do?

By Ken Gallinger and Ruth McQuirter Scott

Christmas already!? It always sneaks up on me. Some year I’m going to be ready, but not this year for sure!

You see, I’ve been so busy at work. I’ve got new contracts to negotiate, and with the climate we’re in right now, I can’t afford to let them slip through my fingers.

That new regional manager just didn’t work out; he didn’t get how important we are and kept missing targets and performance goals. He was always off at some damned thing with his wife and kids. He even turned off his cellphone one night — you can’t work for this company and be out of touch.

So I fired him last week and now there’s even more work.

The wife and kids don’t get it. They’re always nagging about some Christmas concert at school or carol service at church. Those things are great — I love Jingle Bells and that baby in the hay is just so darned heartwarming.

Next year, I’m going to try harder, I guess.

Then there’s Mom. I know she’s getting old, but why do we have to go to her house every Christmas morning? Can’t we just sleep in one year? But no: breakfast at 8 a.m., opening presents, the whole bit. Even my sister will be there with her snotty-nosed brats — geez, I hate those kids.

Oh, crap. I didn’t even get Mom a present. She doesn’t need anything, but if I don’t get something she’ll be weeping and wailing that I don’t love her. And my sister will bring some splashy thing to show me up.

Wait! There’s that gift basket that came from Nameless Supplier #9. It’s just a bunch of junk, but it’s packaged up nice. Yeah, I know about the policy — but no one’s here but me, so it’s no skin off their teeth.

So yes, I’ll take it to Mom.

Why not? We’ve already established that I’m a jerk.

Author's photo
Ruth McQuirter Scott is an educator and member of Port Nelson United in Burlington, Ont.

What a lucky break! This beautiful gift basket couldn’t have come at a better time. With all the work my boss has been piling on me, I’ve had no time to finish my Christmas shopping. I had hoped to find something for my mother after work today, but there’s no way I’ll get through this file before the stores close. She loves fancy cookies, chocolate and fruit. This is perfect!

I know we have a company policy about forwarding gift baskets to the local food bank. But it’s so close to Christmas, and by the time this basket makes its way there, the fruit in it will have spoiled. Besides, the clients who sent it won’t care where it ends up. They probably expect it to sit on the table in our lunchroom.

Yet I do feel a bit queasy about taking this basket without asking. And I suppose I am depriving the food bank of the gift. I could call my boss for permission to take the basket, but that sounds juvenile, and she’s probably out doing her own last-minute shopping. In any case, I’m here alone, and no one will ever know the basket arrived.

The problem is that I will know. I already feel guilty about leaving my shopping for my mother this late. Now I’ll be taking something that could help the poor. Hardly the spirit of Christmas.

Perhaps there’s another solution. I’ve heard that food banks appreciate cash donations, since they can use the funds to buy food in bulk. I can go online and make a donation that more than covers the value of the food basket. I will acknowledge our company as the contributor. Then I can e-mail my boss explaining my actions (including the issue of perishable fruit). I’ll drop off the basket to Mom on my way home and swear to start next year’s Christmas shopping in November.

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