A few years ago, we adopted a soldier and mailed a package to the unnamed troop over in Iraq. I included a note thanking the soldier for his/her service and hoped they were able to speak with their loved ones on Christmas day. I know that's something they look forward to.
Then we bought Christmas presents for an entire family through the church. Can I tell you how much I love shopping for older girls (10-14)?? So. Much. Fun.
And one year, we did the same for a family that I worked with who needed more than a little extra help during that particular holiday season.
In addition, we have a few traditions we participate in each year. We donate 2 unwrapped toys to local charities- OUSART (O'Fallon Underwater Search and Rescue - which is a toy collection site) and St. Vincent de Paul. One of the Christmas parties I attend annually collects canned food donations for the O'Fallon Food Pantry. Finally, we set out a bag of food each year for the Boy Scouts food drive (or, as my college roommate called them, the Bean Sprouts).
With the little guy growing up, it's important to us that we work him from an early age to understand the importance of giving to others.
At age 2.5, it's a concept that is difficult to convey. But, we're trying.
This morning, a gal shared a tradition that she and her family do each Christmas. She has 3 kids (oldest is 6 years old) and each of them get to pick out something in the Gospel For Asia Christmas Gift Catalog. Below are a few gifts you can purchase for a family in Asia:
- For $65, you can give a family the gift of pigs. From the brochure, "Giving a pair of pigs is like providing a steady paycheck. The tiny piglets will grow to more than 200 pounds in less than 5 months. That's a lot of pork to feed a family! And each pair of pigs can produce up to 20 piglets a year. Over the average life span, this same pair of pigs can provide a family with hundreds of piglets for food and to sell in order to earn a living."
- For $11, you can give a family the gift of rabbits. "They're furry. They're cute. And they can change someone's life. A pair of rabbits will quickly multiply, providing a steady diet of lean meat and plenty of bunnies to sell. Rabbits are easy to feed and can be raised in a small space- an important consideration in the overcrowded areas of Asia."
- For $25, you can help support the Women's Literacy Fund.
- For $60, you can give a family the gift of a pay telephone. "Yes, they are still used throughout Asia. And when a poor family installs a pay phone near their home, they can reap the benefits of its profits for years. It's a way to provide income for the entire household."
(My BFF, Martha, told me that when a cow is donated and the cow births its first calf, the family has to donate the calf to another family...as a way to keep the circle of giving going).
The list goes on and on....bicycles, sewing machines, mosquito nets, BioSand Water Filter, etc.
There is no doubt that the need is great anywhere you go-- here in the States there are people in great need. That's why we donate to the Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign (plus, Connie had that on our Christmas Bucket list, so you KNOW we HAVE to do it this year :) ).
But what a cool way to help-- by giving a family a pair of chickens to use for meat, but also as income as they sell eggs to their neighbors.
This year, we are following our usual traditions, but also took a few unwrapped gifts to the local assisted living home (hosted a toy drive) and some clothes to a local bank that was hosting a clothing and food drive.
We also purchased items and donated them to support Operation Christmas Child. At the Mommy & Me Christmas party last week, we compiled the boxes and raised enough money to make and ship 76 boxes to children in need!
My goal is to set aside enough change throughout the year and use that money for two things next Christmas: to leave a larger-than-usual tip for an unsuspecting waiter/waitress (inspired by Aaron Collins) and to buy a gift for an Asian family in need through Gospel for Asia.
See how planning ahead helps us to give more? ;)