UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

My Year of Buying Nothing

That time I decided between butterscotch and scotch tape

By Lee Simpson

My Year of Buying Nothing (YBN) has posed some odd dilemmas in the past months, but none so “on one hand, on the other hand” as this. It’s a small thing but presses all the buttons of an ethical crisis. That’s why I throw myself on your counsel, wise readers.

Here’s some background: I am currently serving as contract clergy, taking over worship and pastoral care duties for an ill ministry colleague. My charge includes two seniors residences with adherents of the United Church. Inevitably, there are some for whom the toll of the years means few, if any, visitors other than me. So in addition to performing worship services in the little chapels, I drop in on our members in their rooms. I wear my “servant-shirt” and collar, signalling to fading memories who I am and what I’m about. We then say a prayer and sing a hymn or two. Actually, it’s fascinating how minds that are cruelly fogged in every other way retain the words of the hymnals of decades past.

Our congregations have also funded a stipend that permits me to arrive with a gift bag for those for whom these little presents have greater meaning. I have been using up my supplies of recycled wrapping and ribbon to decorate YBN-sanctioned tokens: cookies, diabetic-diet butterscotch and mints, as well as apples from our trees. I also offer a YBN-true card, made of construction paper, and bedecked with bow and the appropriate sentiment, “from all your friends at church.” This offering is multi-purpose, providing me an ice-breaker, and the recipient a treat and “proof of life.” It’s a reminder of rich and active years outside those walls. The cards are mounted on corkboard and — most touching of all — shown proudly to other residents as testimony to a past that has not forgotten them.

Still, as Christmas approaches, residence staff has suggested a shift in offerings. Could we buy wrapping paper, blank cards, stamps and scotch tape? Maybe small, potential gift items, beyond the senior’s ability to obtain but appreciated by other residents? A bar of fancy soap, bubble bath or talc? Hey, who could be churlish enough to say, “bah humbug?”

Today, my mother would be nearly 100 years old. Before her death a decade ago, she kept a supply of fancy paper and quality cards. She also re-gifted the scarves and earrings my sister and I gave her. We knew it and condoned it. That’s because Mum needed to show that the flag of generosity and abundance still flew. And who am I to deny this life-affirming pleasure to Mrs. Kittery, 101, who wants her distant great-granddaughter to open a pretty card from Nana?

“But it’s against my rules”, I wail. And getting the United Church Women to prep those gift packages instead smacks of holier-than-thou hypocrisy of the highest order. Don’t worry, though; I am not seriously considering tucking a sermon on paper waste and the environmental hazards of paraben in our senior’s Christmas stockings this year. So feel free to forward your brilliant ideas to Ms. Scrooge!



Author's photo
Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Interviews

Courtesy of Pixabay

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Promotional Image

Editorials

Jocelyn Bell%

Observations: It’s a long road toward full equality for women

by Jocelyn Bell

'It’s a wonder that we continue to see male ministers as normative and attach shame to female ministers’ biology and sexuality.'

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Faith

May 2018

Toronto church builds interfaith friendship

by Vivien Fellegi

Faith

May 2018

This parent found no support for her autistic daughter — and decided to change that

by Kieran Delamont

Suzanne Allen talks about raising a daughter on the autism spectrum and bringing all autistic girls together

Faith

May 2018

Church retreat helps first responders with PTSD

by Joe Martelle

Interviews

May 2018

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Ethics

May 2018

Pregnant in the pulpit

by Trisha Elliott

Ministers who take a maternity leave still face discrimination in their own congregations

Interviews

May 2018

The two words Rev. Cheri DiNovo wants to hear from the United Church

by Alex Mlynek

The Toronto minister talks about her disappointment over the church’s silence when she officiated the country’s first legalized same-sex marriage 17 years ago – and why she wants an apology.

Promotional Image