WASHINGTON -- I was intrigued by a letter that a little boy from Virginia wrote to Santa recently as part of a class assignment.
His mother posted the letter -- which was decorated with both green wreaths and skulls -- on Twitter. It quickly went viral.
Contrary to what one might think, it wasn't what the boy asked for that drew so much attention. It was his smirking at Santa.
He wrote, "Santa Im only doing this for the class. I know your notty list is emty. And your good list is emty. and your life is emty. You dont know the trouble Ive had in my life. Good bye."
He did sign it with "love."
View the letter yourself at http://bit.ly/2BBWEdS.
The boy's "trouble" turned out to be just a brother, said his mother Sarah McCammon, a reporter for NPR, who asked that people not call child services.
The headlines about the tweet called the child "disgruntled" and a "skeptic." I'm not sure it's even that deep. He's 6, and it was an assignment he probably didn't want to do. But his note did have me thinking about the things I dislike the most about the holiday season.
At the top of my list, of course, is commercialism. There's so much emphasis on the presents rather than your presence.
A poll by Ebates, the electronic rebate company, found that the biggest stress point for people during the holidays is related to shopping. People loathe the lines (69 percent). Some respondents said they were concerned about going over their budget (36 percent). And others simply fret about getting the right gift for folks (25 percent).
And who are the best gift givers, according to survey participants?
If you're an adult and you have a significant other, your honey is likely to get it right. Who's the worst?
Co-workers scored pretty bad. I've got a fix for that: Get off the workplace Christmas train. I know I have enough coffee mugs.
I've spent the last few weeks talking various folks out of crashing their holiday budget by buying gifts for colleagues. They've got debt and can't afford such generosity.
"But I have to," one person said. She pleaded that she's a manager and it's expected of her.
I told her to change the expectations.
Frankly, and correct me if I'm wrong, many people will probably be relieved to get relief from buying for a bunch of folks in the office. (If you agree, send me an email at email@example.com.)
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How about this instead: Spend some time writing a really nice letter about how much someone has helped you do your job during the year or made office life better because of his or her presence. It is the thought that counts, right?
And speaking of letting people off the hook, if someone close to you adores giving gifts and you know he or she may be struggling financially, let the person know you're good this year and that you don't want anything.
This just happened to me. I released a very wonderful person from buying me something. She and her husband took a marriage-and-money class that my husband and I teach at our church. During one session, I was joking about how I hate shopping and how I keep things forever. I even showed them a hole in the sole of a pair of boots that I love. The boots are just fine. They keep my feet warm. I just can't wear them when it rains.
The wife is a super giver, so the holiday season is nirvana for her. A few months ago, my husband and I put the couple on a plan to get out of debt. Well, she was having a panic attack on Black Friday. She and her husband got into a heated argument over what she wanted to spend for people on their list.
"I'm spiraling out of control," she texted me. "I'm not sure I'm going to make it. I literally feel sick. I NEVER had a limit when it came to this time of the year. I'm not sure I know how to budget for Christmas."
I immediately called and talked her down. Then I said, "You better not be getting me anything."
"How did you know?" she asked.
"I know you," I said.
Sure enough, she had added me to her list. And she had planned to get me a pair of the trendy Ugg boots. She had a coupon.
Just hearing that she was thinking of me and had remembered the boot story was gift enough for me.
And knowing that she and her husband are staying on the path to becoming debt-free? Priceless.
Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary). Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.
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