Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I live in a world that does. And what I have noticed is that there is a lot of focus on buying and getting and shopping and getting. And not a whole lot of focus on giving. It happens at Hanukah too, trust me. When my kids were young they would spend all day staring at their piles of presents (8 gifts for 8 days x 3 kids. You do the math. Because I’m not going to.)
When my youngest was about 8, we stopped doing the giant piles of gifts. The kids really didn’t need or want all that stuff, and even though I am a unrepentant consumer, the conspicious consumption and gifting-for-the-sake-of-gifting was starting to get to me. This year, in fact, when I asked them what they wanted for Hanukah, the answer was, from all three, “Nothing. I don’t need anything.”
Sigh. Redeeming. Inspiring. But, not helpful. I bought them books.
While I love giving (and receiving gifts), I also like to share what I have with others, and to pass this important skill on to my kids. No matter what I may think I’m lacking in my privileged life, there is always someone who has less. And someone who has less than them. And so on, and so forth. I think we often times see the greatest kindnesses from those we may perceive as having the least. And so, what they give, whether it’s a kindness, a smile, a toy made from their own hand, or a spoon of soup from their bowl, seems to have a lot of meaning.
There are many ways we can teach kids the value and love of giving. Of course, I think that the best way to teach is to model it by giving back as a family, and by being generous of heart, even in the smallest ways, every single day. Luckily there are lots of great resources and books, like this video from Unicef Canada to help children gain an appreciation for spreading happiness (I say gain an appreciation because I don’t believe that you can force a love of giving back. It must be inspired from somewhere inside.)
To help you out with finding ways to give and receive at the same time, I’ve compiled four giving back gift suggestions.
Unicef Canada Survival Gifts.
These are great gifts that truly give back, and are perfect for those you want to recognize, like teachers, trainers, neighbors, or even your babysitter.. I’m told some of the most popular choices are Plumpy Nuts, bed bts, water purification tablets, and blankets for babies.
Plan Canada and Gifts of Hope
A Gift of Hope from Plan Canada can be an excellent way to engage children at a young age. It presents a unique opportunity for them to learn, talk about and support important global issues. With a number of new gifts available this year, including Typhoon Haiyan relief, Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope provide access to food, education, safe pregnancies or a family income. Gifts can be purchased over the phone at 1-800-387-1418 or online . Recipients will receive an electronic or hard copy greeting card letting them know about their personal gift and a tax receipt is issued to the giver.
Free the Children ABC Education Rafiki Friend Chains
Education is an essential building block. It creates the foundation for a stable global community. When children are educated, entire communities attain the knowledge and tools to break the cycle of poverty, for themselves and for future generations. That’s exactly what the ABC Education Rafiki Friend Chain aims to do. Every unique, handmade $10 ABC Education Rafiki Friend Chain sold equips a child for school for one year, empowers a Maasai mama who earns a fair wage to send her children to school and helps you, the consumer, make a socially conscious fashion statement. Proceeds from the ABC Education Rafiki support the gift of education in Free The Children communities.
Empower someone around the world with a $25 loan. The giver buys the loan, the receiver chooses who will receive the gift of a loan for the business. The perfect holiday gifts are Kiva Cards. They introduce your friends and family to Kiva, giving them the opportunity to choose borrowers to support. When their loans are repaid, they can use those funds again and again to make even more loans on Kiva. It’s truly the gift that keeps on giving! (My sister gave this to my son for one of his birthdays and it was an absolutely amazing experience for him choosing the recipient of his loan, and then watching him donate his repayment back to Kiva at the end.)
I would love to hear some other organizations that you share your joy with. How do you give back? Do you purchase gifts like these that keep on giving?