Each year, when the family is gathered together, we talk about our plans for the holidays. In recent years, inspired by how a friend and his family in Switzerland found a deeper meaning in Christmas,we have agreed to celebrate in a simpler way.
My friend and his family live in a tiny storybook village. I’ve been there, and it’s magic. Their new way of celebrating began when their son, Theo, came home one Christmas Eve from college and told the family that he had heard the local village butcher was going out of business, and closing that night. As a family, they totaled up the cash value of their presents, and decided to return them. Instead, they brought the cash amount to the butcher and his wife in an envelope that very night. Their business was saved. They all cried with joy.
And so it goes. Instead of the rush to buy gifts and spend money for things we don’t truly need, we focus on giving from our hearts. There are so many creative options! Last year, some people read aloud from passages or poetry that are favorites.
My aunt gave blankets to the Sioux Native Americans to help them get through the winter. One person crafted a lovely handmade ornament for our tree, others made donations to Greenpeace, or did acts of kindness, such as visiting shut-ins. We all shared our stories at the table, and it was a very uplifting and joyful time. Noisy, too!
We do like to keep the tradition of giving gifts to the children, as a symbol of the gifts of the Magi to the Christ child in the manger. As they grow up, we’ll explain the significance of this. So our little Luke, Vidal, and Richard Thomas will all have gifts. That’s half the fun–watching them open things so joyfully!
Frank and I are gifting a live pig to a family through our favorite charity, Heifer International. Hopefully, he’ll be on his way soon. Livestock gives the village the gift of independence, and the piglets are shared in the village to spread the abundance.
We’ll also share photos of our “adopted” child in India, a little boy named Nik (just like my stepson, Nick!) through Childfund International. Not only does he share Nick’s name, but they share a birthday: September 10th! His father is so ill with diabetes that he can no longer support the family. Now they have money for insulin, and clothes for Nik so he can attend school. I’ll even show the family Nik’s report card.
Watch a Childfund International video here.
I chose the title of this post to be the same as the name of a wonderful book by Jennifer Iacovelli, the author of Simple Giving: Easy Ways to Give Every Day.
Jennifer began a blog, Another Jennifer, in February 2010, to explore the topic of philanthropy and what it meant. As a fundraiser for a non-profit organization for several years, she was getting frustrated with her progress in raising money to support good works, and urging legislators not to cut public funding.
Her book, Simple Giving, takes her blog one step farther. She hopes to inspire readers to do more giving in ways that are meaningful. Giving doesn’t always mean writing a check. It can be taking the time to write to your legislator about an issue important to you, or bringing doughnuts to your local fire department. You might check on an elderly neighbor, or just write a thank you note to someone who has done something for you.
“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”
In addition to Jennifer’s simple suggestions for daily acts of kindness, she shares some ideas for charitable giving to organizations you might not have heard about before. There’s Nearby Registry, a website that allows you to shop for unique gifts from local shops and nonprofits. Or To The Market, an online marketplace that showcases handmade goods created by survivors of abuse, conflict, and disease.
Molly Bears makes weighted teddy bears –so they feel like you’re holding an infant–for families who have experienced any form of infant loss, free of charge. Climate Counts holds companies accountable for their influence on climate change. Ark Project Now is based on the movie Evan Almighty, when Steve Carell’s character asks Morgan Freeman, who plays the role of God, “How can we change the world?”
And Morgan Freeman replies, “One act of random kindness at a time,” and writes the abbreviation, A-R-K, into the sand with a stick.
One person can make a difference; one person can change the world. Let me know what you choose to write in the sand, and how you’ll bring hope to people who may have lost theirs. I’ll share it here, and on my Facebook page.