Monday, November 23, 2009

The Gubby Spirit

Be warned, in this post you will probably read the word "Gubby" more times that you have ever wanted to.

Every holiday season at my place of employment (Gubbyco, a division of Fuckyco International), we work with a local charity group to help provide gifts to underprivileged children. Human resources call them "Star Kids" because if you want to buy a gift for a child you are given a star shaped piece of paper with the child's name, age, interests, and gift ideas. I call them Gubby Kids.

This is where "Gubby" actually came from (in case you were wondering - I'm sure you weren't). The first year that I participated in the Star Kids program, my brother invited me to go out and do something one evening but I emailed him back saying "Can't got to go buy a present for my little, grubby kid." Of course I was joking, I know it is not the children's fault that they are growing up underprivileged (and I have loved the term grubby since local band Grubby Ernie). But I mistyped and it ended up 'gubby' instead of 'grubby.' That lead to a "What's gubby?" and I realised that it was too good of a word to forget about, so I adopted it. The real meaning of gubby is nothing, but yet it is like "smurf" and can match whatever context it is used it.

I have been a big supporter of the Gubby kid program over the years. HR usually calls me as soon as the Stars come in so that I can pick out my kids first. I want to make sure that I get kids that have good interests and tastes that don't just reflect the latest fads. I prefer creativity and books over dolls and video games. I like giving gifts that although the kids to use their mind's (because honestly, growing up underprivileged they probably don't have much more...and I know if I get anything that takes batteries that within a month they probably won't be able to play with it). I usually try to get one gubby boy and one gubby girl (at the minimum).

It used to be that the best toy wish would trump everything else. I like buying cool toys, books, art supplies. Those are the things that I would have wanted when I was a kid. I think Christmas should be about toys for the kids. Then Amanda The First had to come along and put social commentary into my gift buying by saying "You know, the kids that ask for clothes and other necessities probably REALLY need those items." That actually bothered me quite a bit because she was right. I loved buying the kids the coolest toys, books, art supplies but the ones that really needed a good Christmas were the ones that required necessities just to live life. Not just a toy to make them happy at Christmas time but coats to keep them warm all winter or clothing to wear to school. These were the kids that really needed help. I really don't enjoy buying those things though, so it seemed more like a chore than a fun activity. I now compromise and choose children that have both toys and other fun items as well as more necessity items on their wish list. This way, I still get to shop for smaller toys but also fulfill some requirements for living. So far, it has been working out well for me (hopefully for the children too).

I was a little disappointed with the boys this year though as it was mostly Transformers and Bakugan. I finally chose a young boy who wanted Hot Wheels and clothes. I wasn't crazy about the Hot Wheels but knew that I could find a couple small sets to go together to make a good experience and have money left over for clothing. I was really happy with my girl this year as she was a preteen who wanted science fiction and some school clothing. She was at the perfect age I think to really appreciate the Ugly series of books and a blossoming interest in sci-fi should be nurtured because I know she is probably getting all kinds of shit for being a dork at school. I hope they enjoy their gifts and hope they and all the rest of the underprivileged children have a really good Christmas.


kelly said...

I believe the exact response was "What's a gubby kid??"

I saw some poor fools buying Bakugan crap at Target the other day for their moronic offspring. Hey folks, do them a favor and don't pander to your idiot child's every whim for crap he sees on TV.

Get him something he'll really use and appreciate, even if he didn't see it on TV. He won't remember Bakugan a year or two from now anyway. It'll just sit in a disused box with his pogs and his pokemon cards.

Michael said...

Oh I know...I hate all the theme specific/liscensed toys that they have now: Spongebob Operation? Harry Potter Clue? Shrek Monopoly? etc...etc...

They are totally watering their brands down with all these editions. Do think 20 years from now it will be as culturally significant to say "Draco in the Owlery with a Sleeping Draught" as it is to say "Colonel Mustard in the Library with a Candlestick"? Hardly. I can see buying these games In Addition to the classic version but I doubt that is what people are doing.

Kids are just not going to get the same universal cultural experience. Experience that we older folks have...everything is too fragmented. We had new toy lines every 5+ years - Hot Wheels, Star Wars, GI Joe, grew into our culture and lives. Now it is every single year that something new is the "must have." No one is going to remember anything when they are older.

Maybe that will be next week's hate.