Give the Gift of Joy in the middle of 12 Days for Good

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Giving and receiving gifts is a very important part of many cultures.  They can re-affirm bonds of love and affection, connect communities and demonstrate respect and gratitude.  For many cultures, birthdays are very important.  In other cultures birthdays pass without any importance.  In December, many people celebrate Christmas.  For some, the spiritual implications are the most important. These people lament the commercialization of Christmas and believe that all of the spirit has gone out of it. They believe that Christmas should be about family and giving back to those less fortunate.

For others, spending time and money at the malls is the most important part.  For many of us, what’s important falls somewhere between those two extremes and can change over time.  As you get older, for example, you may come to appreciate the time spent with children and grandchildren.  You may ask yourself, “what more do I need?”

I’m glad you asked!

Recently, there has been a rise in the promotion of “alternative gifts,” which are creative and helpful ways of sharing the gift of joy with other people in your own backyard or elsewhere in other parts of the world.  There are Alternative Gift catalogues put out by organizations like World Vision and Presbyterian World Services and Development. You can buy animals, wells or make a micro loan for someone to start their own business. Find them here and here.

UNICEF helps you give the gift of survival (here) to 72 different countries, connecting your financial donations to a very tangible benefit for children and their families.  If your loved ones are wondering if they really need another cookbook, or CD or gift card, maybe they would find more value in a child receiving life saving vaccinations, pencils and books for school, food or even a water pump for their community?

You could also donate money to a local charity in the name of the person, like at the House of Friendship, where your donated funds give the gift of shelter and food. Another local non-profit, The Working Centre accepts and gives many gifts and you can play a big part in that.  As they point out on their website

“Sharing is one of the core concepts that form the foundation of our work.  We share generously with others, and we invite the community to do the same with us.  By responding with kindness and generosity, it seems that we spread the ideas that cultivate community.”

Your financial or in-kind donation of time or used technology can make a big difference to someone.  You can learn more about how to help with that old (but not that old) computer collecting dust in your basement and what is most in need by clicking here.

You could also purchase a Peace Bond from the Nonviolent Peaceforce which “Upon Maturity the Bearer will See a Large International Team Trained for Nonviolent Conflict Intervention around the World.”

Handmade toys are a powerful gift of joy

Handmade toys are a powerful gift of joy

You could make something homemade or give the gift of time and services to friends and family by doing things like babysitting, cleaning or ironing or by making a coupon book. A long time supporting of the Food Hamper Program was looking around his wood shop during the summer.  A large bin in a corner was full of off cuts and odds and ends from his various projects photo 5during the last year.  A thought occurred to him, “maybe I can turn these into toys!”  Months later, and after searching the internet for ideas and patterns he worked with each piece to craft a unique toy that could be shared with parents and grandparents who were not able to connect with gift sharing programs in our community.

If you are not ready to go completely gift free, you could buy something that is certified Fair Trade, like coffee, tea or chocolate because that way  you are paying a fair wage to someone and it’s something that will be used up and not clutter up the house for too long.

What are some of the different ways that you are giving the gift of joy in our community?  Let us know in the comments or on twitter by using the #12daysforgood hash tag!

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