I remember smiling wryly when I became old enough to understand Charlie Brown's dismay over the selling of Christmas. Old enough to resent the predatory-lending tactics of credit card companies and the profane abuse of all things St. Nicolas by department stores. I remember when I began to bristle at the way Christmas was foisted onto the haunches of Thanksgiving . and then, when that failed to sate the titan appetites of the mighty retailer, onto Halloween. Did they pay their employees overtime, I wondered, to strip all the Halloween decorations and replace them with Christmas ones in one unhallowed night? Grrr!
But, many years later, I have come to accept that Christmas and commercialism are inextricably bound. Anyone who listens to the radio, watches TV, or dares to leave their house during the month-and-a half leading up to The Day knows this well. And what of we small business owners? How do we respond to the onslaught that is the Holiday Season? We get in there and fight like the rest of them! Sale, Sale, Sale!
Yes, I confess to tacking on a "Holiday Special" to my shopping cart and hoping to get in on the biggest online shopping day in years, but it seemed almost like sleeping with the enemy to do so.
And so to cure my commercialism-malaise, I gave myself a dose of the classics, "It's a Wonderful Life", "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", and of course, "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown". If you've seen these, you know that they are strong medicine against getting-for-the-sake-of-getting, dog-eat-dogitis, and other varieties of capitalist disease. Or to put it simply, they are just plain old good medicine for what ails you, be that bills that need to be paid, the threat of having to return to a 9-5 job to pay them, or what have you.
Do you remember the line in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", where the narrator says [to paraphrase], "It came without presents. It came without bows..Maybe Christmas means just a little bit more."? Darn that Dr. Seuss! That one really got to me. Now that I am in the world of business, of customers and clients, now that I am a purveyor of goods, what does Christmas mean to me?
The chicken in me wants to focus on the way I celebrate Christmas in my personal life and to exempt Our World Books from the question. Chicken Me says, Why should I have to hold myself to some noble standard in all things when there's shoppers to be caught and money to be had?!?
I acknowledge that being a business owner is not easy and a principled one even less so. But I can't shake those immortal words of Dr. Seuss and Linus' speech of the true meaning of Christmas - something about peace on earth and goodwill toward men, I think - and I can't separate who I am in business from who I strive to be in everyday life. A person of decency and honor. And although I allow that I will not always meet all of my expectations, on this year, the first full year of my life as a business owner, I've decided to make the foundation of my company about contributing value to society.
So, I sat back and thought about what I could contribute this holiday season through my business. What can I give? Last year I was able to make a significant donation to two charities I strongly believe in www.WorldofGood.com and www.ProliteracyWorldwide.com , but as of now my money's way too funny to do that. So what then?
Like many of you, I came to owning a business after a bit of life experience, and sometimes being financially limited is the best way to remember that we have much more to offer than just money. Time, experience, wisdom, compassion, advice, these are free to give and priceless to receive.
After some reflection, I remembered an article on pursuing dreams that I'd wanted to post on my site for some months. It was one of the many offerings I saw myself providing to any and all who visited my website www.ourworldbooks.net. And in thinking on it, I recalled that in my business plan I'd mentioned making life-affirming, uplifting, educational and entertaining content a regular feature on my site. I'd forgotten. That's what I'd contribute, I decided. And if you go to the lounge tab on my site you'll see my gift to all of you in the form of 15 Action Steps to jump-start your dreams (of course owning a business is only one of a zillion!) and a questionnaire you can use to help clarify your dream(s) and focus your actions towards realizing them.
I am delighted that I started this new tradition for Christmas this year, one I will cherish and renew in the years to come.
Much continued success to you!