A few weeks ago I touched a Kindle for the first time. A friend had brought his to a gathering and the seminarian and I got to fondle it for a few minutes. We both wanted one immediately. But we knew we don't need one, and it's out of our budget anyway, so we kind of forgot about it.
Then we heard that Amazon was going to be selling them for an unbelievably low price a few days after Thanksgiving. . (As it happened, it was truly unbelievable; the offer never appeared on Amazon.) For a few minutes we were excited about the prospect of getting one.
But as we talked about it some more we came to the conclusion that neither of us have any use for one. Really, we don't. We aren't traveling right now - haven't been on a plane since 2007 - and have access to all the "real" books we need, and more. I found myself trying really hard to justify the purchase of something I wanted but truly have no use for.
I still want a smartphone. I want to have access to the internet while I'm out and about. I want to use some of those cool aps I hear people talking about all the time. It doesn't matter that my - what do I call it, a dumbphone? - works fine for its purpose. I just want one.
Last month before Thanksgiving break, my kids' art teacher gave them a homework assignment: draw a picture of a gift you'd like to give, and one you'd like to get. My son, bless him, couldn't think of a gift he'd like to give. Finally he drew a book. But the gift he'd like to get? He wanted to draw an iphone but thought he shouldn't. I told him to go ahead and draw a really good picture, because that was as close as he'd be getting to one anytime soon. And so he did. Did a great job, too.
He has a cellphone to carry when he's out and about without us. Usually he's around other people who have phones but I don't like bumming phone minutes. And, I'd like to be able to call him. His phone is rather plain and dull - a dumbphone like mine. But it works for its intended purpose.
He understands that he doesn't need anything more, but he wants one, just like I want a smartphone and a really nice ipod instead of the little shuffle I won 3+ years ago. Oh, and maybe the Kindle for... oh, I don't know.
I would like us all to get to a place where we didn't want things we don't need. Where we recognize that these things are fun and useful and, for some people, even necessary. But not for us. I want us to be content with our dumbphones and our little ipod and remember that there are people in the world who couldn't even imagine those things existing - forget about wanting them or acquiring them.
What don't you need this Christmas?