Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Giving a Good Gift

I've been struggling with how to participate in the gift-giving and receiving aspect of Christmas.  I don't mean to be a scrooge about it all; rather, I'm uncomfortable with the looming shadow of consumerism obscuring the small baby in the manger.

Is it a heart condition?  Perhaps.  Maybe my heart is just not in a holy place as I traipse through decorated malls and rummage through racks of clothes and shelves of candles.  Is it possible to make these times holy moments?  I won't put anything past God, but I'm skeptical.

I calculated roughly how much money is spent on gifts at each of my family's Christmas celebrations.  Between the Christmas celebration with just Zac's immediate family and the one with just my immediate family, all participants are together spending just under $2,000.  Friends, that is not including the extended family Christmases at the grandparents' houses or the money Zac and I will spend on our Christmas with Feven.  This is only his immediate family and my immediate family.  Do you know what could be done with that money if my family decided to donate it one year instead of give each other gifts?  Here are just a few examples I gathered from Compassion International and World Vision.  It could be used...

to buy 115 mosquito nets to guard against deadly malaria
to protect 500 children from parasites
to provide 80 FAMILIES in Ethiopia with water, sanitation, and hygiene from a newly-built water reservoir

However, I can hear "Jingle Bell Rock" come to a screeching halt and the sound of glasses shattering in the background as I suggest not giving gifts at Christmas.  I think the tradition of gift-giving is just about as intertwined with the holiday as baby Jesus himself.

So family, relax, I'm not asking you to stop giving gifts this year.

I'm merely using these figures and this example to illustrate what is commonplace in our culture.  Every year we all dish out a substantial amount of money to buy presents for our family to show our love.  Considering the deep needs of the world, and the deeply rooted traditions of gift-giving, how can we find a balance and do good with the money we (inevitably) spend on gifts?

This is the first year that I have poured thought into the dollars that I'm spending to give the Christmas gifts I purchase.  I am thinking more about where my dollar is going when it leaves my pocket, and how I can do a double dose of good with my gifts this year.

When I buy an item from Kohl's or Target or whatever store I'm at, the dollar pretty much stops there.  It goes to buy a vacation for a corporate executive (okay, maybe that's a little extreme).  But you know what I'm saying.

However, if I buy from a different kind of store, my money doesn't stop there.  It keeps going.  Let me explain.

A few weeks ago I posted an inquiry to my Facebook friends to see if they knew of any individuals, organizations, or businesses who were selling products to raise money for people in poverty.  I had an overwhelming response to this inquiry and learned about many great places to shop for Christmas gifts.  This way, I not only receive a meaningful item to give to a family member, but I also help others in need.  No corporate executive vacations here!

To give you a taste of what I'm talking about, check out these organizations:

The Apparent Project benefits Haitian people.  Artisans there use discarded items to make jewelry, journals, and home decor.  By purchasing an item from The Apparent Project, you are helping Haitian families stay together and provide for their children.

The Breaking Free Boutique offers items made by women around the world who are survivors of sex trafficking.  An astonishing 100% of the profits go to support the work of Breaking Free, an organization that provides education and services to women and girls who have been victims of abuse and commercial sexual exploitation.

FashionABLE sells scarves to create a sustainable business for women in Africa.  This organization targets their efforts to women in poverty in Africa.

The International Princess Project sells beautiful pajamas made by Indian women formerly enslaved in prostitution.  They earn a fair wage and resources for their healing and restoration.

These are just a few of the many suggestions given to me by my Facebook friends.  Below is a quick-list of others for further exploration:

Serrv Fair Trade
Sharing the Dream
Heifer International
Adoption fundraiser - Oak from Haiti
3 Seams
Rafiki Africa Ministries
Not for Sale
Zion Project
Fair Indigo
Feed My Starving Children
World Wide Village
Olsson Adoption from Ethiopia

As you're considering what to give those you love, will you please look into a few of these options?  I think Christmas will be that much more beautiful when we can give not only a gift to our loved ones, but also a gift to those whom God loves around the world.

*Disclaimer - I have not looked extensively into any of these sites nor verified their credibility.  I see my job as merely passing along the good things I've come across.  Your job is to look into it as much as you need to for you, and spend your dollars wisely!  :)  None of these organizations have paid me or given me any products in exchange for being listed here.

**Disclaimer 2 - Some of my dollars this year went to pay for corporate exec vacations.  Unfortunately, some items on family members' Christmas lists could only be bought in BigBox stores.  I'll try harder next year, I promise!  But I do believe every step matters, and that my efforts and your efforts have not been in vain. 

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