Last year, about this time, my most excellent friend, Jeff, got a call from his brother, Richard, in Cleveland. Richard suggested to Jeff that, since there was nothing they could give to each other for Christmas that either of them really needed, maybe they should take the money that would be spent and give it to someone, or some cause, that could really use it.
Jeff considered this, and thought it was not only a good idea, but one that deserved wider exposure. So, the cheap bastard called me up and asked, “How about if I don’t give you a Christmas gift?” After my initial outcry, and amid a hail of obscenities and protests that I had been really good all year, he finally got around to explaining the idea that his brother had hatched. Grudgingly, I allowed as to how it probably wasn’t a terrible idea. And, I agreed to approach my “gift-giving” circle of friends to see how they felt about it. I suggested that this moratorium on gifts should not affect the children on our lists but, that instead of the adults exchanging gifts, we make a donation of equal or greater value to whatever charitable organization we considered worthy.
Ryan and I estimated what our gift expenditures would probably amount to, and chose to give a few hundred dollars to the Valley Food Bank, in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. What better use, we decided, than making sure that a few families who might not have a decent Christmas dinner would get one. Our friends responded in kind. Or, I should say, at the very least they did not give us a Christmas gift. We prefer to believe they donated to charity instead. Except for one or two. They know who they are.
But, I decided to take it one step further. I also contacted all of our friends that did not ordinarily exchange gifts with us, and recommended they float this idea within their own gift-giving circles. If this could be passed along, sort of like a chain letter, the amount of good that could come from just a few hundred dollars in each circle of friends could be increased exponentially. I got positive responses from several of them, indicating that they had also gotten family and friends to agree to this plan.
And so, here it is the holiday season again. With Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, and Little Richard’s birthday all coming in December, there is something meaningful being celebrated by hundreds of millions of people around the world. Whether you’re celebrating for religious, or secular, or personal reasons, this is the time of year when most of us try to find the good in the rest of us; when we attempt to put aside our social and political differences to come together, however briefly, to recognize our common humanity.
We do that, in most cases, by exchanging gifts with the ones we love, and by being a little kinder to those we just like, or don’t know at all. I’m suggesting that those you love already know that you love them. I also believe that most of them would be proud to participate in a scheme that would take the ten, or twenty, or fifty dollars you might spend on their gifts to help someone that you, and they, don’t even know, have a better Christmas, or Hanukkah, or (insert your holiday here).
Most of us are fortunate enough to be with family and friends for our holidays, and to share in abundant meals, good times, and the warmth that comes from being together. More families than you can imagine will not have that in this holiday season, and no matter how generous you have been throughout the past eleven months, more is always desperately needed at this time of year.
So, this should put my friends and family on notice. If you’re older than 21, no gift for you. And we don’t expect one from you. Where your particular slice of the gift budget will be going, we haven’t decided yet. We may, once again, choose the Valley Food Bank. But we’re looking at several others as well. We may give to more than one of them. If you think you might want to participate, but don’t have a cause in mind, I’ve included a few links below to a handful of excellent choices. You can also find others in your local area that deserve your help. Pick one. Give. You’ll have a more satisfying, more fulfilled Little Richard’s Birthday. Trust me.
Save The Children: Donate as little as $10 to help train new mothers, and to feed, clothe, immunize, and educate children living in rural poverty in the U.S. and around the world.
Global Giving – Changing the World is Only A Click Away: Where you can choose exactly what project you wish to give to. Select by topic, i.e. children, environment, aids, education and so on. You may also designate in which country your donation will be spent.
Valley Food Bank: A central hub that collects, processes, and distributes food at no-charge to a network of rescue centers, food pantries, and soup kitchens to provide hot nutritious meals and food baskets to the homeless and to needy families throughout the San Fernando Valley.
And for the children on your list:
FineChristmasGifts.com offers a list of the “Hottest” Christmas gifts for kids for the 2009 season.
Transformers Optimus Prime can be found at this site. Apparently a “must have” for many kids, I’m guessing mostly boys.
Lego City Now is the place to check for prices and information on all things Lego City. A perennial favorite at Christmas time.
Bakugan Maxus Dragonoid is apparently second only to Optimus Prime on the most wanted list this year. You can find him here.
FurReal Friends interactive pets, like Lulu My Cuddllin Kitty Cat, are listed here with links to best prices and vendors.