Christmas Gifts that Keep on Giving.
"I like your Christ, I don't like your Christians." -- Mahatma Ghandi.
I have reservations, too, but I *love* Christmas. Giving gifts, celebrating meals with friends, family and strangers, peace to men (and women) of goodwill -- fabulous stuff. Also coloured lights, decorated trees, special once-a-year cookies, New Yorkers wishing me happy holidays and meaning it, and yes, yes, *fruitcake*!!!
But Christmas shopping. I *hate* Christmas shopping. Hate the malls, the crowds, the garbage to buy. Hate getting it wrong, esp with teenagers -- is there anyone harder to buy for? And seriously, the money. It all adds up real fast.
How to make it better? Give a gift to someone who needs it most. Your gift or purchase helps the world, your giftee gets the karma. Small $ make big differences in lots of places. Here are some suggestions, A to Z:
Any Soldier -- gifts and letters to US servicemen and women directed especially to those who don't get packages from home. So far there is nothing similar for Canadian soldiers, although you can send an official e-mail rah-rah here.
Arghand -- Afghani women's co-op making gorgeous soaps (see photo above) using local materials such as pomegranates and almonds. They don't ship direct but do have some North American retailers who may.
Bat Conservation -- they have neat stuff and I love bats. A membership gets the magazine, or buy batstuff from the batshop -- upside-down bat earrings, anyone?
Heifer International -- Animal lovers on your list? Give somebody a goat who can use it, give your 6 or 16 year old niece or nephew the card. It's a win-win. Good for pompous in-laws, too. Program includes heifers, ewes, goats, pigs, water buffalos, flocks of chicks, ducks or geese, honey bees and assorted package deals. Can't afford a whole pig for $120 US? Buy a share for $10. Got bucks? Give a village a "Gift Ark" long-term livestock program for $5,000.
Kiva -- start a micro-loan portfolio for anyone on your list. You buy them a gift-card ($25 US and up), they select the entrepreneur(s) they wish to loan money to. A hairdresser in Ecuador, a computer game shop in Kenya -- lot of choices-- then watch as they prosper and pay back. Way more fun than Monopoly.
And you can make gifts, too. One of my favourites is notepaper and envelopes with the recipient's name and an appropriate drawing. I find these go over well with all ages as everyone always means to send thank-you notes and this makes it easy. For little kids I will often supply the stamps, so they don't have to rely on someone else to get the thing actually mailed.
Got suggestions for easing holiday gift angst? Comments most welcome.