I love to give gifts. Ever since I was a little girl, I always found it so exciting to pick out something special, wrap it up and watch the recipient open up their surprise. I get this from my mom. No question. She loved to give gifts and usually gave them early because she just couldn’t wait any longer than necessary to spring a surprise on the people she loved. (Christmas was always a challenge for her, particularly when I was in the Santa years when she had to keep the secret!) Mom made Christmas magical for me and ever year I could count on a beautiful doll, books (books, books and more books!), a little piece of jewelry, a new flannel nightgown for those cold New Hampshire winters and other treats under the tree. My mom always made sure that the gifts were special and I suppose it is because of her that I try to do the same.
When my kids were little I would shop, hide things, forget what I bought, buy some more and then sigh, look at Michael and say, “I didn’t think I had this much for the kids!” on the night when I discovered my purchases and started the wrapping process. (He had far more patience with me than I deserved!) Now that the kids are in college, their lists include gift cards for the gas station, grocery money and new tires for their cars; let me tell you, it’s hard to hide and misplace a set of Michelins. This shift away from the “toy of the year” hunt that endangers the safety and sanity of parents across the country has allowed me to step back and gain greater perspective. Here’s what I’ve concluded:
- We don’t need anything because we buy what we do need when we need it
- My friends don’t need anything (see #1 – it holds true for them too)
- I want to make an impact that goes further and honors God’s ultimate gift of life
This year I am watching my inbox flood with mail announcing, “Black Friday Week Sale”, “Black Friday Preview”, “Sixty percent off until Black Friday”, “Last Chance Sale”, “You’ll never believe what is flying off the shelves” and on and on it goes. Just about every one of them is deleted because of a few simple truths that I hold in my heart: in this time of instability, anger, vitriol and fear; loss, insecurity and need, I am keenly aware of the gifts God has given me. My family is largely healthy. We have a home of our own, education under our belts and jobs. There is clean water to drink. We are able to buy eyeglasses every year, get to the dentist and to annual physicals. We have more than enough food. We are blessed.
So many people in this nation, and around the world, suffer because their basic needs are not being met. Poverty, injustice, inequality, war. . . the reasons are endless. And while we are probably not going to fix it all overnight, or ever, there is a lot we can do. God calls us to help those in need. He is not the reason for this suffering and he knows we are a big part of the solution. He looks to each of his children to work in his name. This is where the gift giving comes into play.
This year, I am focusing on giving gifts that make a social impact. I am not only talking about, “1% of proceeds, up to $100,000 will be donated” kind of impact (although that’s always good and I still encourage you to shop with social enterprise organizations- Causebox is a fun way to get into this world). I’m suggesting that you take it one step further and donate/shop through Heifer International, Blessings in a Backpack, World Wildlife Fund, Pencils of Promise, Sudara, Mercy House Global and so many other organizations that improve the world as part of their daily mission. Along the way you will discover beautiful artisans, learn about helping women to become financially free, how children are getting an education for the first time and families given the dignity of a full functioning bathroom. You will feed others.
I would also urge you to make direct donations in combination with your gift giving. There are amazing organizations (your church, the ASPCA or your state’s food bank, for example) that you can make a donation to in someone’s name, and then write a beautiful card to give to your loved one. Match the donation with one of their passions and make the world a better place. Because while it is wonderful to surprise your loved ones with “the” gift this year, it’s even more wonderful to surprise them with a world made a bit brighter by loving thy (global) neighbor.
*pictured, a hand-made bowl of recycled sari silk, crafted in Nepal by female artisans who are working to rebuild their lives after the 2015 earthquake. It’s stunning and looks beautiful on my dining room table. To purchase, head to Heifer International’s marketplace. https://www.heifer.org/marketplace/index.html