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Wichita family to boycott commercial Christmas

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, at 7:48 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, June 26, 2014, at 12:33 p.m.

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This story was reported with the help of the Public Insight Network, a partnership between journalists and readers. To join, go to Kansas.com/publicinsight and click on the “get started” link.

‘Attitude of gratitude’

When we asked readers to share what they were thankful for this holiday season, family and friends topped the list.

•  Gigi Phares said her holiday season is bittersweet because it includes the anniversaries of several loved ones’ deaths.

“In my family, everyone seems to die on or near a holiday, which means we enjoy those around us but we also remember those who aren’t,” wrote Phares, 49.

“While there are sad memories, I am so thankful that when the family comes together for the holidays, time is always spent sharing stories and asking questions and remember those who are gone.”

•  Kayleen Benoit said she recently included a piece of advice in a scrapbook she gave her granddaughter, Shelby, at her high school graduation:

“Develop an attitude of gratitude,” Benoit wrote. “Gratitude creates happiness because it makes you feel full and complete. Gratitude … makes us young and promotes health. Gratitude for small things makes everything a gift.”

Being grateful isn’t always easy, said Benoit, 68. “But remember, you cannot be grateful and unhappy at the same time,” she wrote. “All you really have to do is to make a commitment to be grateful, then stand back and watch the magic.”

This summer, Brandi Koskie lost two beloved grandparents. They died unexpectedly, within weeks of each other.

This Thanksgiving she and her husband, Shelton, plan to honor them by forgoing the modern, wild-eyed, chaotic, commercial holiday season that kicks off Thursday:

The Koskies are boycotting Christmas.

“I’m not accepting any gifts this year, and I’m not exchanging any either,” Koskie wrote on her blog recently. Instead, she said, the Wichita couple and their 3-year-old daughter, Paisley, will “celebrate a Christmas with more heart and make it about anyone but ourselves.”

Koskie, 32, said her extended family’s past holidays, like many Americans’, have featured piles of presents and long lists of gifts to buy for co-workers and friends. It strained the budget, she said, but more importantly, “It ends up as this big pile of stuff for people who don’t need or even want it, particularly, and it just doesn’t mean anything.”

She remembers standing beside a Salvation Army Angel Tree and seeing requests for blankets or microwave ovens.

“Grown adults whose only wish in the world was something they could use to stay warm and comforted, or something they could use to prepare food,” Koskie said. “I bawled.”

She also recalled a story her grandmother used to tell – the grandmother she just lost, a 74-year-old spitfire of a woman who raised five kids on her own while working nights at a Wichita club.

Money was always tight, Koskie said, but one year in particular her grandmother couldn’t squeeze together enough to buy Christmas presents. That year, the single mom walked out to her car one night after work and found it stuffed with presents for her kids, all wrapped and ready to go.

“She never found out who was behind it,” Koskie said. “But she told us that story over and over, about the year some generous stranger saved Christmas.”

Now Koskie wants to be the generous one. She and her husband have compiled their usual holiday gift budget – “it’s not much, but it is what it is,” she says – and plan to spend it helping people or families who might not otherwise have Christmas. They have adopted a girl from Carpenter Place, they’ll go back to the Angel Tree, and they will donate hats and mittens to Child Start.

If there’s any money left over, she said, she’d like to pay off a stranger’s layaway or surprise someone in line at the grocery store by picking up their tab.

Koskie said she didn’t blog about her decision to get pats on the back. She did it mostly to alert friends and family members that she and her husband and daughter would be bowing out of gift exchanges this year.

She even hesitated sharing her story with The Eagle, then reconsidered and thought it might inspire others to follow suit.

So far, she said, people have responded with support and enthusiasm.

“I’ve had so many people say it’s going to impact the way they do Christmas this year, too,” she said. “It’s been really exciting to have people tell us, ‘We’re on board, too, and we’re going to do something similar,’ which is nice.”

The Koskies plan to get a few things for daughter Paisley to open Christmas morning, because “I believe very much in the magic that is Santa,” Koskie wrote.

Persuading husband Shelton to play along with the commercial-Christmas boycott wasn’t hard, Brandi Koskie added.

“He did say, ‘Are you sure this isn’t some trick?’ … And I told him, ‘No, I assure you that when I wake up Christmas morning and we’ve decided to do this, that’s going to be the best present I could ever have.’”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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