Last week I was writing from within a box, because we all live in boxes. People in boxes don't often truly need more things. So, I ranted about wish lists in "Giving Part 1" because I am always concerned that people are too wasteful with holiday gifting. This week I am talking about giving in a way that revolutionizes lives.
Small decisions we make today can create very different outcomes in our lives and in the lives of those around us. In the little ways, we can all give bigger. We can even create such a ripple effect that we can improve the lives of people we might never meet.
We all vote with our dollars. Often by choosing materialism, we support unfair trade practices without even realizing that we are helping to perpetuate child and/or slave labour in countries far away from here. If we put more conscious thought into our gifts, we could benefit people in faraway places AND give a gift to someone we love.
I attended a bake sale at Grace United Church on the weekend and they were also accommodating the sale of goods from Ten Thousand Villages, a franchise of fair trade products hand-made in villages across the globe. Buying gifts that say 'Fair Trade Not Aid' allows us to give doubly because the people who make the items are being paid a fair wage.
Unicef and other organizations use funds to improve conditions for children in particular. My family sponsors a child in India, as do many families in Weyburn. But there are many creative and practical ways to send radically-empowering gifts to impoverished places.
Purchasing a goat for a family in a third world country is another great way to make a difference. Organizations such as World Vision, OxFam, Mercy Corps and Give a Goat, to name a few, offer us the opportunity to purchase a goat for a family in need.
When I think of all the people in this world who are struggling just to have enough to eat in a day, let alone to have running water, plumbing, electricity or forced-air heating, it makes me want to give up my silly extravagances. I may not be high on the hog but I do have the freedom to choose if I will keep extra clothing, blankets and computers.
Anyone who has been to a third world country knows that our culture takes SO MUCH for granted and, without mincing words, we are surrounded by spoiled, ungrateful children of all ages. How many times have we witnessed an adult throw a hissy fit in traffic? Haven't we all found our adrenaline pumping with rage because of a problem with an electronic device?
Ever been waiting impatiently in a drive-thru and had it dawn on you that there are starving children in Africa who would be happy if they simply had a meal?
I'm sure we've all had our moments.
It's important that we have gratitude for what we have, because even if we can't afford to take a trip to somewhere warm this Christmas, most of us can probably still afford at least some modest, practical presents.
For those who can't write cheque to purchase livestock for strangers, much less give modest gifts to each loved one, there is always the option of donating time. Many people sit on councils and attend meetings. But what about changing a child's life by becoming a Big Brother or Sister?
What about volunteering to fundraise for groups that give a hand up? Just by giving to your local Salvation Army, be it to the food bank or the thrift store, you can do your part.
The little things add up, even if you can't board a plane to Guatemala any time soon.
Even those who can't leave home to volunteer can still help by using their knitting and sewing skills to help the Canadian Nurses for Africa with their supplies. The group will be going back to Kenya in the spring and the campaign for helpers begins in January. For knitters, there are patterns online for the teddy bears. For those who prefer sewing, there are also patterns online for sanitary cloth pads and 'discretion' bags, which are in very high demand among the young women in Kenya, for reasons of hygiene and dignity. Doesn't every person deserve these things?
For those who want to help but have no time or money to give, save your seeds. Fruit seeds are easy to set aside and dry out and they can be sent inexpensively to the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, whose goal is to plant three trees for every human living on Earth. The purpose is of course for there to be enough food and oxygen for future generations. It doesn't seem like much to ask since we all need food and oxygen!
By choosing to have compassion, we can free ourselves from the bondage of greed and self-importance. People who care are surrounded by others who care about them.
No matter where we are on the generosity continuum, each of us needs to start somewhere. What better place to start than by TIPPING?