We are one of those lucky families with excess to shed (a roof over our heads, a meal on the table, clothes on our backs and access to healthcare, everything else is excess – see Material World: A Global Family Portrait if you don’t believe me).
Isn’t the point of living small to free up our excess and our energy to pursue something greater, whether it’s our passions, or freedom, or our mission?
In the past, we’ve avoided the gift-giving madness, opting instead to give to charity. Every year, we would give to the same environmental non-profit, but somehow it wasn’t as satisfying anymore. I needed to find my own mission. I thought about what energizes me? What pisses me off? After mulling it over for a year, I decided to shake it up this December, so here’s what we’ve donated to this year:
The Girl Effect
I’m talking to a college classmate (this was over a decade ago). She is Bahá’í and tells me that in her faith, if a family does not have enough money to educate both girls and boys, the preference is to educate the girl because she will become a mother and educate her own children.
Later, I’m reading Muhammad Yunus’ Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty, a book I highly recommend. I learn that Grameen Bank focuses on lending to women because they are more likely to spend it in a way that benefits the family. I remember my classmate’s comment.
I then hear about the Girl Effect and it all makes sense now. Adolescent girls living in poverty are at a crossroads between creating a better future for themselves and their families or becoming stuck in a cycle of destitution. Learn more here.
See a trend? I discovered that it pisses me off that women are still being treated the way they are in other parts of the world. That will be my fight, my call to arms. Learn more here.
The Nature Conservancy
Our oldie but goodie. Protecting nature, preserving life. The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. Learn more here.
Getting back to gift giving.
It’s almost non-existent in our house. Now that we have two kids, though, we need to strategize. Zenhabits has already done a thorough post in The Case Against Buying Christmas Presents with some good alternatives at the bottom. This year, I came across this wonderful idea to celebrate St. Nick’s Day instead. Maybe a slice of yummy bread, a nuts or fruit, a quarter or a small gift. Small things that can fit in a child’s shoe. A note from St. Nick, the more austere and European version of Santa Claus. Some glitter. I love how it keeps the magic alive yet minimizes the presents. Oops, it’s December 8th already, missed it – better get going, we’ll have to celebrate it this Saturday instead!