It is that time of year when I scramble to get the last gifts before all of the other saps try scrambling to get the last gift, thus, I beat the crowd My family has been trying to get away from the obligatory knick-knack purchases that we have always ended up getting for those that are hard to buy for. We realized that we don’t really like those gift, and we figure we can’t be the only people in that camp. There is so much that our money can do for the world rather than adding more stuff to the already cluttered mantelpieces of the Heartland. Here are a few things that we do to avoid more stuff and hopefully make a difference along the way:
- Give an animal. Try a goat, or some bees. Heifer international is a great way to show someone that you are thinking about them and provide a livelihood for another family in the process. They are gaining some momentum, so a lot of people have heard of them. But the process is easy and it really does feel good to contribute in someones name. And, you can print off a certificate for them, if you feel like they really need something for the mantle.
- A New Day Revolution – I got this book from a friend of mine as an early gift, and it has been a great resource for finding little things that I can do every day to make a difference. I actually passed up a coveted up-front parking spot at the grocery store the other day, a move that was recommended in this book. I thought, as I walked into the store, how great it would be if all of those spots up front were empty because people thought to themselves, “Nah, that one is for people in a hurry.” There is also an album that you can download with the code in the back of the book, music that I have been playing for two days now in lieu of Christmas music. This is a great gift.
- Kiva has a program that allows you to purchase a gift certificate that the recipient can redeem to send money to an entrepreneur in teh developing world of his or her choice. This is a cool gift, and a true bonus is the time that you spend looking through the database of entrepreneurs that are supported by the project. It is an excellent way to see what is happening in the world and the creative ways that people are finding to address the needs in their immediate area. Then, you will get to track the success of the business and you get you’re money back as the loan is repaid, then you get to loan it to someone else. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving.
- Unicef and World Vision are tried and true partners in helping the world’s poor. If you want an actual gift to give, These places have products like cards and toys that you can buy that allow the proceeds to go to social action. I tend to steer clear of charities that have a lot of overhead, and producing stationery can be costly, but I would encourage my wife to buy these cards and products rather than heading over to Target (we don’t shop at Wal-Mart, and here is why)
- If you must buy something, you just can’t see Christmas or Birthdays without a wrapped present, then try buying Fair Trade. This is something that my friends have challenged me on, and I am working toward it as a goal. It is also something that you can investigate as a gift anytime and as a way to change your buying habits in general. Think about where your stuff comes from, it will help you to see past your own life into the lives of others.
These options are powerful for changing the ways that people see the world, but even more powerful for changing the way that you experience the season. If everyone would give one small gift from one of these places, the tidal wave of hope that would ensue would cover the planet. Our family has always felt obliged to trade gifts, and it would be cool to see these kinds of gifts get passed around.
I hate to spoil the surprise, but you can expect a water buffalo in your name from me this Christmas.