One of my best Christmas decisions came, not from peace and goodwill toward men, but through frustration and fatigue.
I have nine grandchildren whose needs (and many of their wants) are bountifully met. For many years Christmas buying was an obstacle course of avoiding the respective lists of Santa and their parents in order to buy each child the perfect gifts, which would be fairly even in cost and totally equal in panache.
Many years ago we changed our Christmas.
Nowadays, every grandchild gets a small gift: a magazine subscription, a gift card to ITunes, or a pair of coveted earrings. And then they choose what charity will receive the financial equivalent of their larger gift.
I remember my first warm glow from the new gifting. The kids were getting in the groove of charitable giving and my oldest grandson had chosen the Men’s Gospel Mission, a shelter for the homeless. His little brother (who didn’t quite get that our next stop was to buy gifts for the Wish Tree with HIS money) went with us to the mission.
At the reception desk we each had a different agenda. The older boy (the donor) insisted, “I want my money to go for food.”
I was insistent that the clerk understand that this was not a donation to be taken lightly. It was in lieu of the boy’s own Christmas gift.
And his little brother was mystified, “Did you really just give your present away to them? When I’m your age I don’t want to do that.”
My older grandson replied, “When you’re my age, (9 years old), you’ll know how good it feels.”
This year, that younger brother, now 17 years old, is giving his money to a charity providing service animals – (animals are one of his passions , the other is climate change) – to handicapped children.
Each child has a different passion. Three are giving their gifts to food banks this year to help provide for the homeless and hungry.
Syrian refugees are on the top of one grandson’s list and another is repeating his donation to a public education program that helps underserved populations.
Most of the kids have ongoing Kiva accounts. It’s a fallback they love because they can make loans all year long. They pore over the loan requests knowing they are truly changing the life of someone in Kenya, Bolivia or Tajikistan. Some who have traveled give loans to people in countries they have visited. From the confines of their homes in the U.S. they have the capacity to help a man buy a motorcycle for his transportation business in Uganda, or to build a roof over a single mother’s head in Mexico.
There are nine young philanthropists in the world because of our family Christmas. And I get a warm glow of satisfaction knowing that my privileged grandchildren understand that not everyone lives a life as easy as their own, They experience giving as a true reward.
And my shopping is easy. I no longer buy wrapping paper and needn’t brave the crowds on Black Friday.
Peace and goodwill reign in my candle-lit corner of the world.
Note: This piece was created for and published by the website Vision and Verb (http://www.visionandverb.com), …a global gathering of women of this age, on December 20, 2011 and has since been modified.