Maybe the headline caught my eye because we’re in the year’s most prominent season of giving: “Stuff nobody wants is costing us more. Just ask Milton.” The Massachusetts town just held an emergency meeting because its trash bill came in $820,000 over budget – evidence of the waning options for cheap overseas disposal of all that rejected … stuff.
And I thought: Do some of the ways we give exacerbate the problem?
As The Atlantic put it in May: “There is Too Much Stuff.” Tally up Amazon’s options for pretty much any item, as it did, and you’ll get the idea. Or ponder the consumption arms race driven by big outlets. Add the pressure many people feel to buy more or spend more at the holidays, and more towns are likely to join Milton.
Yet many people raise their voices annually in support of reimagining the meaningful gift. That kind of gift is on display more readily this time of year, probably because the holidays-inspired extension of the helping hand, the friendly conversation, or simply the benefit of the doubt has a knock-on effect. There’s even new academic attention to the phenomenon. At the just-established UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute, which is tasked with “world class research,” the director has focused on “exploring how witnessing acts of remarkable kindness can cause an uplifting emotional experience that in turn motivates the observer to be kind.”