It's Christmas and, as usual, many of us are concerned about the true meaning of the holiday being lost in the commercialism of the "Santa Culture." There are so many people in need at this time of the year and all the other parts of the year that's it's hard to know how to help them effectively. As I've discussed in previous posts, part of our responsibility as stewards of the environment is to care for the poor through our stewardship of Creation and through our stewardship of our spiritual and material gifts.
My post today has suggestions of ways to help the poor while doing you're Christmas shopping. I hope it helps you to maintain your focus on the giving instead of on the receiving.
One fun and trendy way to help the poor is by purchasing a pair of shoes from Tom's shoes. Not only are the shoes cute, comfortable and earth-friendly, they also help the poor. With each purchase of a pair of Tom's shoes, Tom's donates a pair to the poor. Talk about a great deal!
Another way to help the poor with your gift-giving is a modern take on teaching a man to fish. Heifer International is an organization that has been in existence for over 65 years. The idea is to send farm animals such as heifers, chickens and goats to poverty-stricken areas so that the people may have a continuing source of food and income that will hopefully end the cycle of poverty. The purchase of the animals is funded by grants, foundations and by individuals just like you.
It works like this: you select the animal you would like to donate from the Heifer International catalog or website. Each animal is marked with a price. You then donate money to Heifer and they purchase and deliver the animal in your name to a family or village in need. What a great way to help others in a direct and long-term way.
Finally, Catholic Relief Services has a catalog of "Gifts of Hope" and fair-trade products that can be bought to help support the poor in third world countries and encourage budding cottage industries. "Gifts of Hope" work similarly to Heifer International's model but instead of purchasing animals you may be purchasing plumbing systems, education programs or health care for a needy area. If you need to have something to put under the Christmas tree, the fair-trade products available in the "Work of Human Hands" catalog are beautiful handmade or hand-grown items that help communities develop strong economic systems to help end the cycle of poverty.
There are many other ways to give charitable gifts to your loved ones just google (or Bing) "charitable giving" and see what you come up with. Of course, be careful when selecting charities. Make sure they are reputable and that a large percentage of their income goes to the cause and not to operating expenses. Charity Watch and Charity Navigator are two watchdog groups that help donors navigate the waters of charitable giving.
I want to wish you all a Merry and Joyous Christmas filled with the love of family and friends.
May your blessings outweigh your credit card balance!