What to Give

5824862885_0e7c2dd835_m“Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.” ~ Sarah Bernhardt

As a child growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I fondly recall my Dad taking us to the REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) store in downtown Seattle. With its warped wooden plank floors, it was located on the upper levels of an old warehouse. A co-op for all things outdoors (and more), it remains my favorite place in which to lose myself and spend considerable moolah.

My siblings and I were introduced to hiking, backpacking and camping at early ages. And we loved it! Now living in the desert Southwest, I pine for the pines, the mountain trails, crystal clear lakes and rivers, and nature’s majestic tranquility — well, unless one is white water rafting.

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So where did I find myself today? At a local REI outlet. I was browsing for Christmas gift ideas because I rarely give a gift unless it jazz’s me first. I left the store empty-handed, returning to my car. And it was in that parking lot that I had an insight: I am a giver. I always have been. Of myself and the material/tangible. I enjoy benevolence and I know many have appreciated being on the receiving side of gifting.

But I’m done with what has, for decades, been tradition; unless there is a pressing/genuine need for something perceptible. This year my Christmas gifts are going to be different. I’ve got some ideas but I am committed to identifying creative alternatives. At my cost, my objective is to invite family and friends to be part of creating joy and significance for people who may have little or receive nothing. Something substantive yet beautiful in its simplicity.

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This is where you can help and in doing so, share ideas for we of like mind. I would love to read/learn what you have heard about or done in this vein. I’m inviting your input. I’ve already had someone suggest gifting through Heifer International, an established, reputable organization that empowers sustainability efforts around the world with/for poor people in developing countries.

If you’re inclined to think ‘outside of the box,’ please do. I am encouraging all suggestions. In advance, thank you for taking a few moments to enlighten me with your thoughts. I’m navigating a new path and I’m excited for how this will be a win-win for, perhaps, you too. πŸ™‚

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102 thoughts on “What to Give

  1. Ask everyone to name their favorite charity and then give a gift to the charity instead. It isn’t too terribly flashy or original, but I like it. For people like my in-laws, who would doubtlessly choose a charity that I did not want to support due to its anti-everything-but-a-specific-church sentiment, I resisted the urge to give to a liberal cause on their behalf. In the end, we gave to a group anyone can support like feeding starving children. We have given through Heifer, too, but I like to try to tailor the giving when possible to focus on a more personal charity that focuses on some interest the “recipient” might have, such as their love of stray cats or birds, etc.I look forward to seeing other suggestions here –maybe I’ll find a new idea to get behind this year!

  2. Hi Eric – one of our favorite charities is Angle Tree – but I also love the classic Salvation Army for a few reasons – and so I think supporting those ministries is always a good investment.

    And one fresh idea you may want to consider – is to just have folks think of someone on their community- or someone they know that is going through hard times- and then give to them. I think sometimes there are needs right outside of our front door – and giving to some of these folks could really change lives. We know a family who has both parents working consistently (from the ten + years we have been acquaintances) – and one year – we bought them a leaf blower (we knew they needed one because the dad and son told us in passing they were doing some weekend jobs). Or a single mom – we made her a huge basket with fruit, gifts cards, and tea – and wrapped it up – anyhow sometimes I think we miss some of the needs right in front of us in the community.

    Oh – and one more comment it sounds like you were at REI when it was very new – and my husband used to love their store in Denver – it was the 90’s then – but REI was growing and they had the coolest items.

    • Thanks for several good ideas, Yvette. I am particularly keen on your suggestion that we look right into our own community for people in need. And your gift basket idea is wonderful.

      To REI… it’s been around since the 40’s. We used to go to the “old” Seattle store in the late 60’s. They’re still growing and they still have “the coolest items.”

      • yeah – agree on the REI – and we actually got a few gift cards for that store as wedding gifts – lol.
        and one more side note to add – one of the nicest holiday charity things I have ever done was delivering Thanksgiving fruit baskets to elderly folks in 1992. I have done many other outreach and service projects over the years – but that one was special because it was one of my first times doing something like that – but it was also fun because most of the seniors were NOT expecting it and a few were even crabby when I first pulled up – and to see their faces softened and feel there warmth – oh priceless.
        well keep us posted on what you end up doing πŸ™‚ and have a nice week.

  3. I’m slightly speechless, because I’m selfish and like presents. But I think your suggestion is beautiful and a lovely idea. (Don’t forget though, Eric; it also takes a big heart to receive. It’s perhaps harder and more rewarding to receive gracefully than to give…) But I shall nonetheless try to go with your giving idea.

    • Indeed, Bruce, receiving gracefully is difficult for many. I learned long ago to express simple, yet deeply felt thanks. While I still prefer giving than receiving, both are joyful. Thanks for considering the giving idea.

  4. For younger receivers or animal lovers, there is always paying for a yearly “adoption” of an animal at the zoo. The Receiver gets all sorts of photos, has their name put up, can meet the animal (depending on the species of course), and gets to learn about said animal and ways to protect it in the future. I was gifted this a couple of years ago and loved it. It helps zoos care for animals and it educates as well.

    Charity donations are always worthwhile though. Lots of good things being discussed here.

    • How did I know you would proffer a zoo/animal idea Ger? Very you. Yours are great ideas, especially when younger ones are in the receiving mix. And to your point, it can be just as easily appreciated by animal-loving adults, too. Thanks for adding to the possibilities.

    • My sense and experience over the years, Monika, is that whenever and however we can help children, that seems to tug at people’s hearts most. Here’s to your creative idea, which doesn’t have to be “super.” πŸ™‚

  5. What you’ve shared here Eric has such deep relevance and I must say that I have pictured you as a giver. I’m with Monika on this. Children’s Homes, I feel, need our creative input when it comes to our giving.

    • Wow. I’m early into replying to comments and doing what we can for children has already been mentioned three or four times. We’re developing some consensus here! Thanks for your kind comment, Don, and for highlighting children’s needs — not just as we head into the Christmas season but year round.

  6. I too think the idea of giving to the charity of peoples’ choice is an ideal of honoring them and helping those organizations in need. In our family there are many organizations that have deep and personal meaning to us – and to choose one would possibly deny others the opportunity to feel great about offering assistance in this way.

    • I’m hearing (and agreeing with) you and others who are advocating for giving the gift recipient(s) “choice.” That action does honor them and ensures the gift aligns with what is significant to them. I’m liking your and others ideas more and more! Thank you, Mimi.

  7. We may have already discussed this, and please forgive me for my horrible memory, but I grew up right outside Seattle, in my teens we moved near Tacoma. I pine for the pines too, even in winter, everything still looks alive. Love whitewater rafting! You have me thinking this morning. I have donated through Heifer International, but I also like Grow Appalachia. I find it heartwarming that a lot of us think of the world and what other countries lack, but America has people in need as well.

    Before moving to the South, we lived near an area which lacked funding for schools. The elementary school my children attended had dilapidated playground equipment, most of it was unusable. I volunteered at this elementary school for over 13 years, mostly through helping those who were struggling readers. A friend of mine suggested we campaign for new playground equipment. Not through the PTA–they provided balls and jump ropes. (obviously, I have a problem with the PTA, the rotten experience I had may have been unique to that school). We researched companies of playground equipment, received all the permissions through the school district, and all the proper permits. We held fundraisers, and eventually had enough money to build a very nice playground–actually two. One for the kindergarten children, and another for the bigger kids. My friend and I, as well as other volunteers. helped install the equipment under the guidance of the the company we purchased the playground equipment. I hesitated to participate in this project because I felt academics were more important to the development of our kids. I learned rather quickly how important recess was. (Yes, I volunteered watching over the playground too).

    I hope the kids attending that school are enjoying it today, and the choices made by me, the principal, and my friend were good ones.

    • We have discussed our mutual PNW ties, April. πŸ™‚ And while I intentionally avoided expressing my personal views, you have touched on one of them. Just as countries (especially the U.S.) channel massive amounts of aid overseas (to other very needy people), I still don’t understand why some of that can’t be directed into our our communities. We certainly know how and where we have significant need.

      I applaud your playground initiative. How warming it must have been (and still is) to see the children enjoying the fruits of your fundraising and volunteering efforts! Thank you.

  8. An important gift we should all give is kindness. At this time of the year, for me, that means letting the driver who wants to change lanes into the spot in front of me; returning someone’s grocery cart to the rack; holding a door for a package-laden person; smiling at lots of frazzled parents with more frazzled children, and generally staying out of the way of holiday shoppers, as I am not one of them. Kindness is easy to wrap and it’s always in style. It’s also the one gift I hope everyone re-gifts. Peace.

    • Indeed, Paula, kindness is “easy to wrap and always in style.” And I would add, an act we ought to be extending continuously. And whether it is with/through kindness or other gifts your “re-gifting” wish is truly where each of us has ongoing opportunities. Thanks for creating awareness around this!

  9. Eric what a super idea. While I love donating to charities and Have two special ones I donate regularly too.. I think Christmas gifting can help in more practical ways.. Its always easy to throw a cheque or money into the charity Bucket..
    How about going on the streets and giving the homeless a food parcel.. Hot drink.. Warm clothes.. Sometimes we who are snug as a bug forget those less well off, and society tends to sweep them away as if they do not exist..
    I don’t know .. Christmas Giving really should not just be once a year should it.. We could ALL of us do a lot More GIVING even if its just our time in helping out..
    And when We really think!.. It really puts us to shame that we do not GIVE more to help others in our neighbourhoods..
    You really have given food for thought Eric.. Thank you

    • Bright, doable, and immediately impactful, Sue. Taking it to the streets with warmth and sustenance. I like it. And to an earlier comment, we do have ample opportunity to contribute right in our own neighborhoods. So let’s do it! πŸ™‚

    • You, too, have children on your heart and in your mind, vg. As with others comments, yours is another voice for taking care of children at this special time of the year. Thank you for you Toys for Tots suggestion.

  10. It’s a nice idea in theory if the “giftees” are of the nature to appreciate this. If they are, then I do believe it would be more heartfelt to give to the charities they each believe in. If they don’t care about animals, giving to various animal charities would be more of an insult. My own mother has scoffed at the “we’re giving to charity instead” by stating “Yeah, right, like they really will! And if they do, nice tax break they are giving themselves…” She may be a tad cynical but I’m sure she’s not the only one out there…

    • I hear and agree with you, Dale. At the same time, I am of the mind (and heart) that if someone views a charitable/giving act as being skeptical of ulterior motives, then are they someone I want to include in my giving. So much of the impending season is about being “in spirit.” If my motives and efforts are questioned, there are so many others who would be vastly more appreciative.

      By the way, our mothers sound as though they’re cut from similar cloth. πŸ™‚

  11. Eric – What a lovely, thought and feeling provoking post. In my many years of giving to colleagues and friends, participating in family name draws, including Angel trees, Heifer International and charities, I have found that the experiences for the receivers of those gifts are very mixed. Some love the bigger picture of giving in their name, others not so much. The most profound gifts, I feel, are those which contain thoughtful words. And I am not speaking of holiday greeting cards, pre se; unless, the card is the method by which a personal note of love, appreciation, gratitude and wishes is contained. These are the gifts that I treasure – whether from a close friend who knows me well, a child, sibling or colleague, the words from one’s heart are transcendent of any material thing. Some are comfortable with this, others are not. For those who are not quite ready to receive at this level, I provide a few heartfelt words and include a small gift card. They are free to choose for themselves…and that my friend, is a multi-layered gift! The gift of love and choice…all wrapped into one small envelope. Best wishes for a wonderful heart filled and heart opening holiday season!

    • I “get” that some people love the bigger picture of giving in their name and others not so much, Carrie. And I keep this in the back of my mind. Yet despite our well-intentioned efforts, we can’t be all things to all people all of the time. If what I am gifting is thoughtful and presented (to your remarks) from my heart, then I will remain hopeful that it will be received in a similar vein. I do like your (what I see as a more flexible) multi-layered gift… love and choice. Very nice.

      Thank for your your kind holiday wishes. Please know they are returned with warmth and caring.

  12. Great stuff Eric!! Truly inspirational πŸ™‚

    Maybe you and your family could donate to or even create a Xmas soup kitchen for the local homeless? Complete with turkey and the trimmings.

    In India, many temples serve free food all day, every day and given the homeless situation there, they are doing a great job.

    Here in the UK, I have been hearing a lot of positive news on Sikh charity Seva (which literally means ‘charity’ in Hindi) who have been going out every week making hot meals for the homeless in Birmingham.

    Go on Eric, start your seva!! It is a beautiful idea btw

    • A seva. It’s a beautiful idea. You assume I cook — well — and am capable of doing so in large quantities. I’ve already committed to assisting this coming season with a shelter that feeds homeless people and I am genuinely looking forward to contributing in that capacity

  13. There’s several way to look at this. If someone really doesn’t need anything in their lives, and there are so many of use out there, then gifting in the name of a charity is OK but I think rather impersonal because you don’t know if they approve of the charity you have chosen (as mentioned in an above post). I, on the other hand, appreciate and give a little homemade gift, be it something I made or something I purchased from a local artist that I know they will appreciate. If I want to give to a charity I just do it without attaching any name to it. Also, sparking my thought process, is that we never know just how much of our money really goes to charities. Yes, probably most of them are legitimate, but then there are others, and we all know at least one who lines the pockets of their top executives.

    Alternately, if you are giving to someone that is in need then perhaps a gift certificate to their local grocery store. Recently, I won a gift card to a local grocery store at a luncheon. I am looking for someone in need, random, that could use it during this special time of year. I have put it out to the Universe to find the person that I need to gift this to. That gave me an idea to purchase more and give them out. I recall when we were very broke. Someone walked up to my husband and handed him a $20 bill, just out of the blue ….. We were so grateful because we so needed it. Make someone’s day by your generosity. Buy a McDonald’s gift certificate for a homeless person.

    All this gift giving is stressful and obsessive. That’s the culture we live in. Things are about to change.

    • “All this gift giving is stressful and obsessive.” You think, Grace? πŸ™‚ And of course, I say this knowing well that we’re on the same page.

      I’m glad you brought up people’s hesitancy or doubt about which charities or organizations actually pass the funds they receive through to the needy they (in some cases, allegedly) represent. There are two useful sites that track and monitor many of these organizations and report on how they use donations: http://www.charitynavigator.org and http://www.charitywatch.org Many of the big fundraisers do not like these impartial reports.

      To the heart of your comment and ideas, simply giving (food/grocery) gift cards to homeless people seems both and easy and caring way to help — as long as the store or chain is in relative close proximity or can be located easily. Thanks for your stories and good ideas.

  14. Eric, check out this micro financing charity Lend with Care. Your gifts could be spread all round the world. You gift your friends and family Β£15 by opening them an account which they can then take over and lend your gift to people around the world to help them build sustainable business for themselves and their communities. The money is repaid in very small installments and then it can be relent to someone else. The best thing is your friends and families can add to their fund themselves and help yet more people. I have been doing this for a few years now, and it is one of the best things I have done in my life. For me, it is better to give a gift than to receive one; are not all the peoples of the world our extended family.
    Here the link if you are interested. Paul

    http://www.lendwithcare.org/

    • Indeed, Paul, the microfinancing option is viable. useful and has been around for several years. While unfamiliar with lendwithcare.org, it sounds similar to kiva.org, a ‘micro’ with which I have personally aligned. And yes, very much so, all people’s of the world are our extended family. Thank you for adding that very relevant thought.

  15. There is nothing wrong with giving at Christmas except that it has become so commercialized and we object to being told or manipulated to give. How about not giving anything at Christmas but giving your presents as part of the New Year celebrations? That way we get to keep our autonomy as well as the likable tradition of giving presents.

    • Hear, hear, Malcolm. To your creative and viable alternative I will add, what if we were to collectively rethink our “likable tradition”(s)? And in revisiting it/them, effect some perhaps, needed modifications?

      You reference “being told or manipulated to give.” In addition to that perception, there seems to be significant guilt associated with not giving enough or having a sense that we might be ‘undergifting.’ To an earlier comment, the current practice is “stressful and obsessive.”

      I don’t have a solution but I’m keenly aware that gifts are centric to what’s both right and less so with our present, Western ways.

  16. Kudos Eric, There is great joy in giving. I’m sure you will find what organizations or processes speaks to your heart. Two special ones that brought me great joy; 1- sacred ceremony / circle with friends appreciating the “light” and presence of each other. 2- Caroling and visiting folks in nursing homes who are often starved for attention.
    To a world of giving and cooperation,

    • As evidenced by the abundance of thoughtful ideas shared here, I *will* find worthy causes and ways in which to share and express my thanks. You’ve added two more considerations, Brad. Thanks. And here’s to your worthy world wish!

  17. Eric I love this idea. One christmas after the loss of my gorgeous brother. We decided to gift our parents with a sponsor child from Africa. We each had a turn with the monthly payments. A little boy, as the years went I took over the sponsorship as my parents aged. When I met my husband he to wanted to sponsor a child also, so now our family has two little kids from different parts of the world.

  18. One year for my birthday I did not need, want or could possibly think of ANY thing for my husband to get me. I told him I would rather send a small amount of money to each of my nieces and nephews with a letter. In the letter I asked each of them to do something kind with that money for someone else. It could be anything they wanted. All I ask was that they share what they did with me so I could share in that joy with them. (Though in hindsight I shouldn’t have asked for that part). I only heard from one or two of them. There were about 17 of them or more. I lost count. But….I still love the idea of it. And the one or two who did it, their feedback to me was phenomenal. πŸ™‚

    • I like ‘pay it forward’ opportunities, Colleen. Your’s was creative! And potentially impactful given the number of family members involved. Kudos to those who shared requested feedback with you. Perhaps it’s a ‘generational’ thing but I experience the same whenever I gift to my nieces and nephews. Rarely is gratitude expressed or feedback shared. C’est la vie… I still give. πŸ™‚

  19. You can live without a lot of things but you can’t live without food so for years I’ve bought extra when I’ve gone food shopping and donated it to a local food pantry. I involved my two kids in this as much as possible over the years and I’m happy to say that they are also givers.

    • Our giving does set examples and favorably rubs off on others. Good to learn that your kids have continued the kindness you started. Yours is such a simple act, one that can easily be developed into an ongoing practice. Thank you for adding it to this amazing collection of ideas/suggestions.

  20. Heifer has become a favorite of ours too, Eric after a dear friend gave me the gift of a donation in my name a few years ago. πŸ™‚ This year my family has decided to skip presents and give ourselves fun memories and a party instead. We’ll pick a theme and everyone will be challenged to find recipes that correspond.

    • Appreciate your adding to the ideas here, Lisa. While I like the work Heifer does, I’m looking for something different yet of comparable positive impact. I do like your new ‘party’ idea with the family. If the theme is Greek, I make a mean baklava. πŸ™‚

  21. My favorite charities are the USO and Wounded Warriors. But, on a more “in your hand” gift level, the best Christmas memory I have is the year we drew names within my family and all gifts had to be hand made. What marvelous things we made for each other! And who knew we had such talent!

    • You and Grace (above) are of like, creative mind, Irene. I have always appreciated and in some cases, still treasure hand made gift given to me. And your acknowledging veterans through two well known support organizations is important. They must be remembered and if they are no longer with us, then we can still remember the families they have left behind. Thank you for contributing your favorites here.

  22. One year I gave a Christmas gift through http://www.kiva.org/ and the loan was paid back to my friend that I purchased the loan on behalf of. It was such a happy feeling when my friend told me two months later that the loan was paid to him, and that he received his gift. It meant that the man in Kenya that I loaned the money to was successful in his endeavor, and that my friend had the freedom to do whatever he wanted with the money. Freedom. Money ain’t freedom, but freedom can be a gift that’s given. Wow.

    • I have been funding kiva people/projects for three years, Ka. It’s truly enjoyable to see people willing to work to sustain and build their farms, families and/or small businesses. In the same vein, Paul (above) cites a similar microfinancing organization, lendwithcare.org. Your freedom ‘view’ is refreshing and inspiring. Thank you.

  23. At some point in our lives, we flip – from being the type of person that enjoys receiving more than giving, to the opposite – watching the smile and emotions of another upon receiving.

    Although we haven’t been as active in the outdoors lately (the nasty Florida humidity has a little to do with that), REI is one of our favorite locations also (akin to a kid in a candy shop). And we like to rationalize that since we are members, any money we spend in there comes back to us (a little bit at least) through our yearly dividend. Plus, it’s the opportunity of getting outdoors with your family, away from the distractions, that pays higher dividends than any monetary amount is able to πŸ˜‰

    As far as giving, my family are huge readers. Choose to implement this idea as you see fit, but we find ourselves in Barnes & Noble quite often (coffee and book browsing is a small slice of heaven for me). Around this time of year, they offer the opportunity to purchase a book for a local child that is not able to afford it. You get to pick the book out so you can pass on your favorites to a child during this holiday season. We enjoy doing this, more than once, so that we can pass on our love of something to another individual who may not otherwise have the opportunity.

    Thanks for sharing Eric! This is a great way to raise awareness for the ability to make the holiday season truly magical, not only for the receiver, but also for the giver πŸ™‚

    • What I am/we are seeing in the ideas shared here, Dave, are – as you describe – creative ways in which to “pass on our love of something to another individual who may not otherwise have the opportunity.” So here’s my huge bow to you, your family and members of our WordPress community who are going to make this holiday season magical for others. Maybe many others. πŸ™‚

  24. Wonderful idea, and there are so many. From local ones right in our own back yard, to global places to assist. This posting was spot on as I had been thinking along similar lines this year, the gifting thing to people who really need nothing seems such a waste. I am going to look at things like Heifer International. Thanks for this jump start in a positive direction!

    • We, at least those who have commented here, have additional evidence of what has and does work(ed). Thank you for joining in this ‘choir’ as we enlighten one another and commit to acting, caring, and giving in meaningful ways.

  25. Over the years we have participated in many projects. Lately we’ve just donated money to causes, but the most rewarding were ones in which we were physically active like feeding and housing the homeless in our community or working with children and elderly in our community. There is always need nearby and it’s where we felt most useful.

    • Yours evidences yet another case of compassionate action and ‘physically’ giving right in your own community. Other comments have highlighted the ease and value in contributing locally. Thanks for sharing you personal experiences/stories, Suzi. And yes, there is always need nearby.

  26. Eric – Pick your charity and ask them what they want. When we worked with the foster kids of the county, we asked for Christmas lists and were shocked at what they asked for. One seventeen year old asked for a Barbie (because she had never had one) and I never would have guessed that. When we presented her with 10 Barbies, she sobbed with joy. Still brings tears to my eyes. Good luck, in the end whatever you decide to do will make the world a better place.

    • “Ask them what they want.” This reminds me of a TED Talk in which the speaker emphasized the need for us to simply listen to what those closer to a need, need. Yours is a touching story. Once again, we read/hear about what we can be doing children, wherever they are. Thanks for adding to the richness of this thread.

  27. Probably the best gifts I’ve ever given have been farm animals to children and their families in Africa. World Vision has a wonderful gift catalogue full of goats, chickens and pigs….and I’m sure there are some other reputable organizations doing similar stuff too. Just an idea…

    • And World Vision is again mentioned (see Kath’s comment above). The fact that the two of you speak well of your experiences with this organization tells me (and other readers) that they are credible. Thanks, Helen!

  28. I love this idea, to give to others who need. That is one of the greatest Christmas gifts a person can give. You’ve already had so many wonderful suggestions, that I can’t think of anything else to add. But I believe that you will choose just the right one, whether it be one listed here or something that gets put on your heart.

    • I believe giving to others in need, regardless of the time of year, is a privilege and a duty – that is often unexpected yet so warmly appreciated. Maybe we have enough ideas and suggestions here that no more are needed. πŸ™‚ Still, thank you for adding your important observations.

  29. Animal Outreach programs, SPCA,and salvation army get from me via Santa…I cover those who need, be they 2 or four legged…I find it much more fulfilling to give. I got the gift of my girls, a good life and a roof over my head: what more do I need? Great read Erik!

    • Many readers are aware that I am an animal lover. Our four-legged friends (whether they’re part of our lives or not) are just as deserving of food, shelter and caring as two-legged beings. I like that you acknowledge your own blessings and that “what more do I need?” That is a realistic perspective that allows us to see others needs more clearly. Thanks for adding your valued views.

  30. Dear Eric – what a lovely idea! All the comments here with their wonderful ideas seemed to have covered almost all the various facets and aspects of giving. I work in the charity sector and often come in contact with the homeless and disenfranchised and the marginalised in the society. Their condition becomes all the more stark when juxtaposed with all the sparkliness around them. What I also see – is that often the poor and v poor are forced by the culture of ‘gifts’ into getting into more debt. Borrowing money from loan sharks and what have you. So how about giving gifts to those who can then gift? Parents who want to buy things for their children but can’t? Or people starved for company – who are alone – to give them the gift of your time and presence? You, yourself BE the gift! To those who are terminally ill and alone – the gift of attention and time…? Well that’s my little contribution. πŸ™‚

    • I hope others who have contributed thoughts and suggestions here have a chance to read your ideas. Your perspective from working in the charity sector is valuable. Creating and sharing time with peole who are alone is a beautiful act. Simply being ‘us’ cna be a huge gift. I love it, Anjali! Thank you for your “little contribution.” I believe your statement underestimates its potential impact. πŸ™‚

  31. If you give to charities on someone else’s behalf you could choose one that provides feedback. For example, my dad donated to the RNLI (lifeboats in UK+Ireland) for years and got my children a “Storm Force” membership. They were sent a regular “Stormy Sam” newsletter and other little goodies like pins and puzzles.
    I know that you can “adopt” endangered animals, and help specific children in developing countries that you can correspond with. Maybe you can nominate someone else to receive the updates…

    • That’s an interesting ‘return’ from the charity, Sarah; some feedback. It’s a good way to keep supporters/contributors in the loop as well as informed about other opportunities to help. Yours in an other appreciated idea. Thank you.

  32. Going to come right out and shill for my favorite cause at this particular moment. Our library (as have several across the country) partners with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program which mails a book a month, for five years, to any child who registers through a local library, from ages 0 through 4. Our library foundation is covering the subsidized cost to supply the books — $25 per year per child. The idea is that children who have books get their parents to read to them, giving kids a boost in early literacy. It works. The kids and families love it.

    If this program is happening at your library, it’s a great one to give to. What the world needs most right now, is education.

    Thanks for throwing this open. Happy holidays, and hope you have a blast choosing how to celebrate.

    • Feel free to shill, Julia. πŸ™‚ You are the first (of many comments) to create awareness around local libraries and the programs they have for boosting early literacy. Many who have created time to share thoughts/recommendations here have highlighted what we can and ought to be doing for children. We all know they can use all we can provide them! Thanks for reading and advocating. Warm holiday wishes returned your way.

  33. Eric there are many great ideas here. We have often centered giving around the homeless population in the city. Often shelters will have a list of gifts you can put together ( socks, blankets, bus tickets, etc). Getting one’s family together to help cook a meal at a shelter or another agency can really bring out the joy of giving and an appreciation of how very much one has. I enjoyed this post very much. As always thought provoking.

    • Echoing some of the earlier comments, Sue, it seems important to identify what specific needs are, as you have learned and experienced with shelters and the homeless population with which you have worked. Ditto to cooking and serving meals to those who need and appreciate same. Both are caring ideas. Thanks for your kind comment on the post and for your thoughtful comment.

  34. So that’s 5 types of non-commercial gift giving ideas we’ve used for years:

    * Experiential Gifts
    * Gifts of Hope
    * Green America Gift Memberships
    * Plant-A-Tree
    * Copies of The Better World Handbook or Simplify Your Life

    We’ve also donated to Toys for Tots, fed the homeless on Christmas Eve, sung carols in nursing homes, painted playgrounds at schools, cleaned up a park, supported children in South America and Sri Lanka through ChildReach, donated canned goods to the Food Pantry, supported struggling artists and musicians, etc.

    Happy Gifting!

    • A collective reply… One of my sisters has always given experiential gifts and she loves it; Gifts of Hope seems to do work similar to Heifer International and World Vision; I have been and remain supportive of sustainability initiative/efforts; reforestation is a never-ending need and; Seven foundations for a better world is a new one for me! Thanks for sharing these five, Nancy.

  35. I’ll be spending Thankgiving Day volunteering, handing out donated items. I might squeeze in volunteering to Rescue Mission at night too. That will be my gift. πŸ˜‰

  36. Hi Eric,

    I like the possibility that through inviting your family and friends to give to people in need, their own recognition of their desire and need to be a giver will be awakened or stimulated in them.

    As for practical ideas, here’s a creative and different one: perhaps you and some friends can get together and actually do something to benefit people in need. Like, make an artwork for an orphanage, or maybe build something together, or organize a bake sale to raise funds for a worthy cause, etc. You can use the money you’d normally use for Christmas gifts and invest it into this project. The time you’d normally spend shopping can be put into the project.
    Then at the end you can send some photo’s and a report to everyone on your gift list, so they can feel they contributed.

    Hope that helps!

    • I find your opening paragraph grounding and inspiring, Dirk. Stimulating others… much to the ripple effect. I like and appreciate your “creative and different” suggestion. I’m sensing I may not have the bandwidth to pull something like this off this year but it certainly warrants a place in the consideration hopper for future opportunities — not just Christmas.

      So, in short, your ideas do help! Thank you for creating time to share them.

      • I’m glad you appreciated the comment and the suggestion. It’s understandable that you may not be able to do this right now, but yeah, maybe later!
        Actually, commenting on your post and thinking about the subject got me and a friend of mine’s creative juices flowing about this and I’ve since then been more aware of other people’s needs and spending a little more time than usual thinking about creative ways to show my appreciation to them. Thanks for the inspiration!

  37. REI in Seattle is such a great place ~ I go there sometimes just to relax and see what it new on the market. Your Christmas present idea is a great one, and I would guess that getting family/friends involved in charity is a great way not only to share what interests/concerns you, but to teach (a great skill of yours).

    Giving time to charity brings out that great sense of contribution. Next week I will give three days of time with Save The Children out here in HK, it is a great start to the holiday season for me as it puts me in the right frame of mind. Your post makes me think it would be great to include friends/family in this too ~

    • I come from a family (and especially in my Mom) who gifts excessively. Always has. Once again, I will wear the ‘black sheep’ badge with my intentional shift away from what has become ‘too much.’ And I’m okay with this because it’s a needed change. To the extent that I can create valuable awareness in family and friends and introduce them to the merits of redirecting their (Being) time and resources, then I’ll smile at the win-win.

      Thanks for your kind and appreciated comment, Randy. A deep bow in appreciation for your choosing to volunteer with Save the Children. Another win-win!

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