Gifts that keep on giving….

It’s that time of year. You know the one I mean.  This entry is mainly about cool gifts that can make a difference and how this seems like a good time of year to give them. And this month’s theme will be “It’s That Time of Year.” We’ll see what happens…

So, here’s the thing.  Black Monday was a day when the stock market crashed and led us to a depression. So, I don’t know why they call the day after Thanksgiving  ” Black Friday” — maybe because it pushes retailers into the black for the year?  Still, it just has this kind of sinister ring to it, doesn’t it? I mean,  in the way it’s being used, it sounds a little too related to all those people trampling each other in a crazy fashion.

I know as someone who can easily get sucked into sales, buying just the perfect thing, and finding the better discount, I have to watch myself around this time of year. And I mean in more than just “spending too  freaking much.”  I mean,  I need to watch that Im in getting people I care about  stuff that will really add value to their lives and not just – stuff.   And to do it in a way that reflects the joyful spirit this time of year is meant to have. I don’t want the shopping process to be something Darth Vader-y, grim, unhappy, forcefed and all-consuming and ….bleak. It’s like we’re told we have to, have to, have to buy stuff to the point it’s a chore, a parttime job, a responsibility. I mean, what is the meaning of Christimas again?  …Exactly.

Mall = Death Star?

With this in mind, I did a little thinking and web-surfing the last few days and tracked down some potential  gifts  that have a little extra meaning to them and dont require any trampling.  I’m not saying Im going to only give these kinds of non-gift gifts this year. But I am going to try to do more things like this.  So, I’m sharing my list here of potentially cool Christmas gifts.

Here’s some of the cool gift stuff I’ve found:

Manure.

Seriously, isn’t there someone on your gift list who would find this funny?  “For Christmas, I got you a pile of….”  You donate $12 to Oxfam and they send your friend or relative a card saying that they’ve helped sustainable farming in a place that really needs help. It’s a joke gift, but not a junky joke gift that’s going to sit in the basement or get tossed when you’re not looking. Say good bye to the novelty shops this year and give the  gift of dung instead.

Trees 

Got a friend who doesn’t like the idea of donating so people can eat beef, or who likes gardening– or Arbor Day? Here’s a gift that helps people grow their own futures with – wait for it – sustainable income: trees.

   Browse the Trees for Life  catalog, donate and have a tree – or a bunch of trees- given in your loved one’s name.  Sorry, they don’t throw in the partridge. This lets farmers have fruit to eat and sell and it’s good for the environment. 

An amazing fact from Trees For Life “One single apple tree can live for more than forty years and provide more than 10,000 pounds of food.” That’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Jewelry    If you want to get something sparkly for a loved one this year, why not get something made by artisans-in-training from the Rosie’s Place  “co-op”.  Boston-area homeless and low income women who are trying to get back on their feet have created some really nice stuff – bracelets, earrings, barrettes– and the proceeds help them make more. All reasonably priced for handmade items. Nice.

Micro Loans 

Somewhere out in the greater world, a man or woman has a business they want to expand so they can lift their family out of poverty. They’ve got the start of the business, the experience, the market– they just need a little extra cash. You can connect your loved one with that person by giving a Kiva  gift certificate. Your loved one can then visit the site, browse through all the entrepreneurs from around the world, including some in the USA, and get involved. And as the loan gets repaid, they can donate again and again through the same process to other people all over the world.

Healthy Snacks  

Veggie Tales, so delicious

America has an obesity epidemic. Poor kids get hit the worst. Donate in a friend’s name to the  Healthy Snacks   program  from Save The Children, and someone you know can feel the pride of supplying summer and afterschool programs around the USA with healthy snacks for for children who may not have access to them at home. If you have a friend who likes to give raisins at Halloween, this may be just the gift for him or her! 

Toys….   

Like giving toys to kids who wouldn’t get any without help? Tell it to the Marines. Follow the link  and you can find a Toys for Tots drop off place near you.  My local Y also does a donation drive – maybe yours does, too. 

Fishing Nets  

From Lambi Fund Haiti. Teach a man to fish…well, he may already know how to fish, but he may not be able to afford a net. You can donate in a loved ones name and remedy that problem for some fishermen (and women) in Haiti. If you have even more money, you can donate a whole fishing boat! 

from mssu.edu

A Card

Doctors Without Borders doesn’t have a snazzy gift catalog, but if you donate to their awesome work in someone’s honor,  you can personalize and send  an e-card someone and share the warm, fuzzy feeling or knowing you freaking helped pay for someone to go help save someone’s life.

Chicks 

One of the coolest things of the last year was my neighbors building a chicken coop in the yard and having their own chickens. Fresh eggs! Cute chickens! In some places, chickens are a lot more than cute and economical. They can be life changers.

Heifer International  is one group that gives you a chance to buy chicks in your friend or relative’s name and help some chicken farmers who haev chosen this as the livestock they will best be able to use. They also let you buy a whole flock of chicks.

The World Wide Web

One Laptop Per Child is an awesome group that manufactures affordable, durable laptops for students developing nations, giving them access to the internet and tech skills. 

You can donate and have a card sent to a friend or relative saying you donated in their name.  Good for the geeks on your list as well as some kids who will be getting a better education thanks to their new laptop.

Chocolate   

You know how I have that thing about big chocolate companies using cocoa from places that may use child slave labor and how that doesn’t really make me stop eating chocolate because Im a big ol hypocrit? Well, stocking stuffer or hostess gift or what have you- if youre going to give chocolate this season join me in trying – trying – to get ethical about it and try Endangered Species Chocolate – Yeah it’s a little more expensive but maybe if it’s a gift, you want something a little snazzy anyhow. Available in MA at Shaws.

A Turtle 

No, I am not auctioning off my turtle (yet). WWF has a facebook catalog ( I guess it’s the first ever) where you can “adopt” various endangered species. You can also check their website if you want to get away from “the FB” for a while.  It looks like you can also adopt Harry Potter’s snow owl.

Bicycles 

The awesome girls education group CamFed  is taking donations to buy bikes for students in rural Ghana – girls who have to walk hours every day-  just to get to school. Hours. Everyday. Walking. Donate and let a friend or loved one know they just gave a young woman a lift towards a brighter future.

All right – so that’s my list. Anyone got any other ideas? Let me know!

Two quick notes:

1- I am not running the annual drive this year, but I will post the addresses for CTA and Sheepfold School so you can donate as you see fit.

2- It isn’t too late to join my sister’s Thanksgiving Challenge- wherein families donate whatever they spent on Thanksgiving dinner to the charity of their choice.

Thanks for reading- and have a great weekend!

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