We are survivors. We survived the mayday of Black Friday, maybe even of giving up Thanksgiving with our families so we could buy them a gift and save some bucks in the process. We forget that the best gift you can give someone is time spent together. Stores try to outdo each other and we follow like flies to the light. Are we getting off the beaten track here with endless spending and unnecessary gifts? Do we really need to suffocate our family members with more presents than Carter has pills? And what message are we sending to our children when the little darlings expect bigger and better gifts year after year? Christmas is not about outdoing each other. It is not about piling the presents higher this year than last. It is not about engraved cards that we send out, too busy to even sign them.
Christmas is a holy day, not a free-wheeling, crazed shopping experience. I am not against gift-giving, believe me. But I am drastically against overdone gifting, getting into debt and catering endlessly to those who won’t be happy with anything you give them, anyway. As a holy day we are reminded to “Give and it will be given to you”. But let’s allocate some of those hard-earned dollars to those who really need help! They are all around us, near and far. I thought I might share with you some ideas for making the Holy Day brighter for those who truly need a hand up.
Kiva.org – I was told about this organization on a safari in Kenya. I have to admit that I processed it and put it in the back of my mind (but did nothing) until 2 1/2 years ago when my sisters, through the kindness of their hearts, overwhelmed me in Costa Rica with birthday gifts, none of which I needed, but all costly, I am sure. I hadn’t considered gifts at all. I thought the idea of all being together on a nice vacation in Costa Rica was a great gift for all of us to share. Our time together was the gift. After opening up all those surprise gifts, I remembered Kiva.org and suggested that from then on each of us give a gift to a favorite charity or cause in each other’s honor both for our birthdays and at Christmas.
Kiva is am international, micro-loan program. The minimum loan is $25.00. You get to chose to whom it is given. This year when I found out that they had teams, I began my own “team”. It is called “Old Broads”. I invite older women to join. Each participant can find her own person to sponsor in whatever country she wants. When the loan is eventually paid you can then parlay that into another woman. If you are a man, yes, join! We will make you an honorary “woman” for the moment only. It will be fun to see it grow. In the 2 1/2 years I have been loaning to Kiva women this I have snowballed it into at least thirty different micro loans. Each time I choose another woman, I get excited all over again. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
Alternative Christmas Markets are sprouting up like flowers everywhere. I love these vehicles for giving. In my area, Solana Beach Presbyterian offers one of the best alternatave markets I know. They work on the selection of their charities for the entire year and then offer them for three Sundays before Christmas to the area residents or through their website. The idea is to buy a gift in the name of someone on your list. Then give them a card that tells what “gift” was given in their honor. They have a far-reaching list of suggestions: $5.00 will buy a mosquito net that may save a child’s life for their Afar Partnership in Ethiopia. $28 buys India’s Street Kids a school bag, shoes, books, uniforms and transportation fee for one year. I am sponsoring education of a Muslim girl in Ethiopia for one year. There are, of course, many more options and opportunities. Go to their website at http://www.solanapres.org and link into their Alternative Christmas Market or “Heart For a World” button. 100% of your donations go directly to the charity you choose.
The founder of http://www.Omochild.org , Lale Labuko, was named in the December 2013 issue of National Geographic as an “Emerging Explorer” for his rescue work with young children of the Omo Valley in Ethiopia. If a child is born without permission by the elders, out of wedlock, or his top teeth grown in first they are considered “mingi” (cursed) and are killed. Omo Child is educating superstitious elders while rescuing babies and young children from certain death. This is a small charity and so far they have rescued 37 children, who are set up in homes overseen by nannies who manage a huge amount of responsibility with very little money. ngm.nationalgeographic.com will tell you even more.
Man’s Best Friend...love animals? There are loads of animal shelters and organizations that are as effective as their donors’ generosity allows them to be. Red Rover is one of those animal organizations around. wwwRedRover.org for tax deductible donations.
There are endless ways of helping others. Sit your children or grandchildren down in front of the computer and show them where the Christmas money is going this year. Involve them in the selection and they will feel it is coming directly from them. That way you are doing more than donating or loaning money; you are teaching your children a valuable lesson in what this Holy Day is supposed to be about.
One final word: Need to wrap something up that will last a lifetime? In my next blog I will introduce a new find. I don’t normally do book reviews, but this one I couldn’t resist. It will keep you on a spiritual path for a lifetime. That, my friends, is what Christmas ought to be.