I don't know about you, but I live in California, and our state is under lockdown. Again. And potentially again and again and again until a vaccine becomes widespread.
I will not get into my complex feelings around quarantining, COVID vaccines, and other COVID related things beyond saying this:
Humans are social creatures ~ it has become abundantly apparent that we are facing 2 pandemics ~ coronavirus & loneliness. To be human is to be in community, and to have our community replaced by quick hits of social media dopamine followed by depressing crashes of isolation is not it. Suicide rates are rising. And, anecdotally, so are depression & anxiety.
To be human is to be resilient ~ TikTok is a hub of humor & compassion & CREATIVITY ~ I am amazed & inspired by the next generation and how they are handling this year. And how they are learning, and redefining, and expressing. To be human is to heal ~ people are healing spiritually during COVID ~ questioning their old lives, planting seeds for new ones.
The founders of Walmart & Amazon have earned $133,000,000,000 in profit during COVID-era. Jeff Bezos has earned enough to pay each of his employees $105,000 in individual bonuses and still be worth as much as he was before quarantine - and that statistic is over a month old.
Meanwhile, 20% of small businesses - at least - have shut permanently. A lot of us want to support small businesses this holiday season. A lot of us believe in the creativity & worth of small businesses. There are a lot of really great lists of small businesses to support (see here for a comprehensive list of black-owned businesses, a list of indigenous-owned businesses here, and women-owned businesses here).
But I want to highlight a complication, because I think in 2020 we often lose sight of nuance in conversations. I don't think it is enough to just say shop local & small, and expect everyone to fall in line. I think it's hard, because I think small businesses thrive in part due to their quaint, in-personal appeal. The love that goes into small businesses is something you feel tangibly within them, but is much harder to connect with on the Internet. Also, without that in-person memory imprinting, it can be hard to justify spending more money on local products when Amazon is cheaper - and so many are feeling the financial strain of this quarantine. And finally, it can be overwhelming to sift through a ton of small businesses when familiar stores like Target are easily accessible online.
So what to do?
We do what we can. We live from the heart as best we can. We love our neighbors as best we can, with our wallets, our food, our time. (And we remember this gross inequality is a byproduct of capitalism).
With that being said, here are three affordable gift ideas from small businesses that I will be buying this holiday season! I am only linking three because I am the type of person who gets way too overwhelmed by a laundry list of options. But if you want more, check out the lists I linked above. :)
Beeswax candles. Did you know! Regular candles contain up to 11 toxic compounds, including carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemicals. Beeswax candles are not only 100% natural and chemical free, they are also the only type of candle that emits negative ions, which purify your air and improve its quality! Therefore, beeswax candles are very good for those with asthma & other respiratory issues, or those living in polluted, fire-prone areas. They emit natural bright light that is on the same light spectrum as the sun! Think cozy, warm, ambient light that other candles cannot replicate. I suffer from SAD (seasonal depression). Even though SAD is not nearly as bad in sunny Southern California, I still love beeswax candles to help me get through the long, dark evenings. These candles are also hypoallergenic, environmentally friendly, and have a long burn time due to having the highest melting point of all candle wax types. They are more money than your average candle, but the longer burn time makes up for that! Convinced yet? If so, go to Etsy, type in "beeswax candle," and search all the cute options until you find your favorite. A couple of my favorites are these tapered candles made by monks, and this fierce wolf woman candle hand-poured in Georgia. And, while beeswax candles have a natural warm, yummy scent, if you are looking for something a bit more fragrant you could check these out.
*Note: make sure you are purchasing 100% beeswax candles - candles can call themselves beeswax but be mixed with paraffin unless they specify they are 100%!
Palestinian olive oil. I love this gift idea because a) I'm Palestinian and proud of my culinary heritage, b) this gift gives back to Palestinian farmers & enables them to sustain their livelihood, and c) Palestinian olive oil tastes SO GOOD. Palestinian olive trees are hundreds of years old and harvested with traditional methods, and the topography produces some of the richest, most robust olive oil in the world. This is the perfect gift for the chef in your life - they will notice the difference in the quality of oil they're using. Again, this gift is more pricey than going to Von's Grocery, but it's a gift with soul. And personally, I'd rather get a few more meaningful gifts than a ton of cheaper gifts. Buy yours here!!
Book from your local bookstore. I don't know if you knew, but reading is all the rage again in quarantine. With Bookshop.org, you can find your nearest local bookstore and shop directly from their online page. The site is so fun; each bookstore gives a little bit of background and suggests book products that will ensure you find the right read for whoever you're buying for, all while supporting local businesses & the literary arts. Find your bookstore and get shopping here!
As we get through this weirdest of years, navigating its moments of spiritual highs & moments of crushing lows, I send you love. May this holiday season bring you joy however it can, and connect you to the community that loves you most. And may we all remember that to give is also to receive. <3