‘Tis the season for Chia pets and dancing flowers. That’s because as Christmas approaches and we grow more desperate to check off those final names on our shopping list, our discretion loses the debate with impatience and we worry more about getting our shopping done before the deadline than we do about the value we receive. I know that my basement has filled with gifts that I have no use for, given to me by family members who probably imagined that their gift was inspired. And after a few years collecting dust, these gifts typically end up listed on Palouseads.com or are donated to Goodwill Industries.
And I find that even those gifts I give to others, and in which I have invested all of my thoughtfulness, frequently end up stored in a closet until enough time has elapsed so that they may be guiltlessly disposed of at a garage sale. This is not uncommon. Contrary to popular myth, the busiest day at retail stores is not Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. It’s the day after Christmas when gift recipients flock to stores trying to exchange unneeded or unwanted gifts.
If you are desperately trying to get those last minute gifts for the people who have everything they really need, there is an alternative that will always be appreciated and will never be returned. Consider making a charitable donation in the name of a loved one and insert that information into a card. No one will ever be disappointed that you donated to someone in genuine need. Some charities will even send a card for you or provide you with a pdf file that you can use to print your own card.
I am frequently the recipient of e-mails, often forwarded many times, that heap praise upon our service men and women. Just this week I received a very moving poem just about a Marine standing guard so that a family may enjoy a safe and secure Christmas in a warm home. The Marine in the poem was a 19 year old, standing watch in a cold rain in Afghanistan on Christmas Day. I’m certain that his heart would be warmed to know that people were thinking enough of him to encourage others to pray for him.
And I’m equally certain that his heart would also be warmed more fully to know that on Christmas Day, the families of his fallen brothers were being taken care of by people who appreciate their sacrifice.
I have several charities that I like to donate to for Christmas. My two favorite military charities are the Fisher House Foundation (http://www.fisherhouse.org) and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (http://fallenheroesfund.org/). Both of these charities provide support to the families of service men and women killed or wounded in action. They also assist with the rehabilitation of severely wounded soldiers and Marines. With both charities, 100% of your donation will go where you intend. All administrative and fundraising costs are born by the charities’ trustees. You can even designate how your donation is to be distributed. This year, my donation in my parents’ name will go into a college scholarship fund for the children of our fallen heroes.
Another fine charity for you to consider is the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). UMCOR (http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor/) is a mission of the United Methodist Church that responds rapidly to disasters around the world as well as ongoing needs. Again, 100% of your donation will reach those you wish to assist as the United Methodist Church employs its existing infrastructure to bear any administrative costs.
Heifer Project is an economic development charity with a fine track record of lifting families out of poverty and onto a path of self sufficiency. Heifer Project offers a full catalog of charitable opportunities at their website, http://www.heifer.org. Heifer Project also makes it particularly easy to make a donation in another’s name and generate appropriate Christmas cards.
Consider local charities as well. Sharing tree opportunities abound in this area. You can purchase a toy that will find its way under a Christmas tree that might otherwise have nothing underneath. A donation to your local food bank could help families enjoy a Christmas dinner much like the one you are looking forward to.
I know that I’d prefer that my family made such a donation than purchase for me some silly gag gift that will never see the light of day.