Christmas goats, part 2

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(Andrew Neel, via and used under Creative Commons zero)

Last week I explained about the origin of my Christmas goats, so now I'll tell you what I do with these goats.

Throughout the year, anytime I go to a health fair, convention, college fair, community booth event or the like, I usually end up with a small bag of logo-type items that booth folks give me. The lead booth usually offers a logo tote bag in which to carry a variety of items collected around the event, including pens, post-it pads, chip clips, hand sanitizer, magnets, lip balm, note pads and key rings. Sometimes there are stress-reducing squishy items along with rulers, magnifiers, pill boxes and posters. And then there are the grand-daddy-of-them-all items like flash drives, earbuds, Frisbees and really nice pens in plastic boxes.

These are all goats. The phrase "it's better to give than receive" really resonates with me. Instead of keeping these items, I have fun giving them away to my unsuspecting and needy family members. A couple of sister-friends also save goats for me throughout the year when they get items, and I happily take their contributions. It all makes for an even more fun family holiday celebration.

This is why it's been fun collecting Leinenkugel's beer boxes throughout the year. The repairman in my house may not have believed that I was just getting the empty boxes from the store before they were discarded, but I can't worry about him. I start around Thanksgiving to line up the Leinie's boxes, assign family names, and then dole out all the goats into the boxes. And I don't hold back — I totally clean out all my stashes of goats and make sure every item is going to a good home.

Our holiday gathering this month did not disappoint. My siblings and I have every material thing we could need such that we don't exchange gifts anymore, so instead our Christmas gathering is important time to be together and catch up about our lives. It's not about material things — except for the goats. Everyone has fun opening the Leinie's boxes, knowing that the contents aren't valuable or important but it's just fun to share and be shared with. A niece as well as a sister-in-law are pen freaks and refer to their boxes as "pen heaven."

Then I start collecting for the following year.

[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati Ohio.]