The holidays have crept up on us once again and I always love this time of the year.
The smell of fires burning in warm homes, the twinkling lights hanging on trees and in windows. Strangers stopping to smile at each other, holiday parties and all sorts of merriness.
I also happen to be a fan of egg nog so I appreciate that about the season as well as our annual Christmas Eve party with family and friends.
During this season I usually feel an immense gratitude for my life and everything that’s in it.
Because on my way into my office I walked past someone hungry and cold. Because there are people who have died and will die this month because they have nowhere warm to go, so they will breath their last breaths in the cold embrace of an unfriendly season.
In this season there is a lot of focus on celebrating but also a lot of focus on more material things. You see, this is also the season to buy, buy, buy.
It’s the season of children writing letters to Santa requesting “an iPad.” It is a season of giving gifts. Presents wrapped in shiny papers and stocking stuffed to the rims. I, myself, am just as guilty as the rest. I love giving my children presents during Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa time.
But what if instead of focusing on parties and presents we focused on other ways to truly give in a way that benefits more than our friends and family?
What if we chose to give from our hearts to something that would make the world or the life of someone else better?
Here are some gift ideas in lieu of another sweater, another bottle of wine, or a cheap toy that your niece of nephew will forget about in a day or two. Not that you shouldn’t give those things if that’s what your heart tells you to do, but if there were other alternatives would you pick them? If so, keep on reading!
Gifts That Keep On Giving
Consider making a donation to charity in the name of a friend or family member. Some examples are:
Global Giving. “A charity fundraising website that gives social entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world a chance to raise the money they need to improve their communities.” You can purchase a gift card for a friend or family member and they can go to the Global Giving website and select the project(s) that they want to support. They will receive email updates from the project(s) so that they can see how their contribution is making a difference.
Kiva. A micro-lending non-profit that provides borrowers from all over the world with capital to improve their lives. For as little as $25, you can help a person improve their own life and their community. Kiva also has gift cards that you can give to allow your family and friends to pick the individual(s) they would like to support and to get updates on their progress.
Or donate to a small local non-profit that needs funds. For example, At the Crossroads is one of the local non-profits that I like to support, as they help homeless youth to build fulfilling lives. Their work directly serves my local community because every teen they get off the streets is one more productive member of my community.
Do your friends or family members have something they’re passionate about? If you have a vegan family member, they may appreciate a donation in their name to a local animal sanctuary.
Give Once, Give Twice
If you can’t fathom the idea of not giving your loved ones a tangible object there are still ways to give gifts that impact the world for the better. You can purchase gifts from companies that do things such as donate items to those in need, provide employment and self-sufficiency for impoverished communities, or that help the environment. (Note: Some of these are for profit companies that also give back.)
Some such companies are:
I admit that Toms are like the total hipster shoe. I also admit that I find them pretty darn cute on kids and would probably own a pair if my feet weren’t so narrow. For whatever reason they don’t fit me quite right. Anyway… sorry for the tangent… Toms gives away a pair of shoes or glasses for every pair that is purchased. They also have vegan options!
Like Toms, for every purchase BOBS gives away shoes to children in need. They look pretty much like Toms and are around the same price point but are slightly less and may have some color or style variations that are not available with Toms.
These stunner shades are not only environmentally friendly but they also provide glasses and medical vision care for someone in need. Environmentally friendly and helping others. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Not only do these watches look sick but for every one you give a tree is planted. Trees are good. They make oxygen and we kind of need that to live.
These cute hats and other handmade items are made by women in Uganda and Peru. They directly impact specific women and their families as the women have a way to provide an income for their families while they receive an education. Each item is signed by the person who made it, and you can read about some of the artisans on their website.
Same Sky is a fair-trade company that provides “jobs globally for women struggling to lift themselves out of poverty.” They train women to be artisans and 100% of their net profits go back into training more women. This company not only trains and employs women abroad but also here in the States.
Not to mention that their jewelry is gorgeous. Like seriously pretty and the kind of stuff you’ll find in a high-end store but with good karma points built right in.
Their motto is “buy once, give twice.” When you purchase one of these adorable baby outfits or blankies they donate an outfit to a child in need.
Give Your Time
You are a gift to the world. True story. Your time is precious and priceless consider donating your time to a local soup bank, or go to a hospital and volunteer. Instead of a toy, give your goddaughter the gift of a trip to the movies with you, or your own tea party at a fancy restaurant.
As you get comfort in the warm of your home or watch the lights tinkle and dance on your tree, I hope you will eat, drink, and be merry. I also hope that you will count your blessing and be a blessing to others.