"Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need."
In the last several years I hear of more and more families taking a different approach to gift giving during the holidays, Christmas specifically. One family I know went on a humanitarian trip to Mexico for their Christmas gift to one another. No money was spent on gifts but rather airfare that took them to a small village where they worked side by side, for one week, building a school. They say this is the Christmas they remember with the most fondness. Of course, this wouldn’t work if you had small children but this next idea might.
There’s no reason we all need to get everyone a gift. Choose names. The kids can trade names and the adults can do the same. We instituted this in our family years ago and what a difference it made. We spent our time and resources on one gift rather than spreading out the same time and resources amongst several people. When I broached this subject to my siblings, I asked, “Would you rather receive one $50 gift or five $10 gifts. And would you rather shop for one person or five? Needless to say that year we started drawing names.
In the past few years our family gift giving has evolved further. My sister has been instrumental in the development of a community outreach center in her community. We cast aside the idea of a traditional gift and gave money to my sister’s endeavor in the name of our chosen family member.
This same sister informed me last week after her return from Kenya that this year we are giving to a group of women who have started an AIDS orphanage. They need money to build a gristmill so they can be more self- sufficient and provide for more children.
My sister also gets credit for the next stage in our gift giving tradition. She informed me that as she’s chosen the charitable organization we’ve contributed to for the last few years that starting next year the siblings will choose their own favorite cause or organization for us to give to on a revolving basis. Each year one of us will choose. It might be the Children’s Ballet Company, The Humane Society, The Nature Conservancy, a local food bank or shelter….whatever speaks to the heart of the particular person making our yearly choice. The list of worthy causes is endless.
There is probably no one who wouldn’t agree that the holidays are a time for family…to be together…laugh, talk, eat, play games and reminisce. It’s not about making ourselves, and everyone around us crazy as we buy, wrap, and go into debt doing so. And what do we have to show for it. We sit in a pile of discarded wrappings and survey our stack of un-needed and often un-wanted gifts and think. “Is this all there is?”
The good news is, that isn’t all there is. We don’t have to do it like we’ve always done it. We have lots of options. As a family we moved into this slowly, it didn’t happen in one season or even two. We still love to see the children open their gifts and enjoy their delight. But as we have aged and grown aware of the pressing needs of our community and the world we have made the decision to give in a bigger, better and GREENER way.