Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Pleasure of Giving

Finding the perfect gift for your friends and family members who don’t really need anything makes us frantic, especially at Christmas. As the Big Day advances and we haven’t found the Perfect Gift, we are tempted by expensive and unnecessary junk which may end up being returned, recycled or even thrown out. We buy goofy gifts or something inappropriate. The shopping frenzy turns an otherwise spiritual season into a depressing one which leaves us with the sense that we’ve missed something.

This year, we made a conscious effort to spend less money, both on ourselves and our friends. Instead, we bought a few things for the house, some carefully chosen little gifts like books, calendars and toiletries. We cooked, enjoyed some mulled wine and the reruns on television. We even sent electronic Christmas cards.

We also gave donations to charitable organisations. Last Christmas, a couple of our friends started this by donating a goat to a family in Africa, a gift which would make a huge difference in the lives of those who received it. We were touched that they thought to do this in our names. This year, together, we donated emergency cooking utensils, blankets, mosquito nets and a desk, chair and stationary. It felt good that our abundance could help someone in need.

Think of the riches which we take for granted. How many changes of clothes do you have? Televisions? I-Pods? Computers? Telephones? Cameras? Cars? Foods? Medicines? Books? Cooking utensils? Do you take for granted your clean drinking water? An effective sewage system? Do we really need more STUFF?

The disasters which we have witnessed in the last year have made us all more aware of suffering around the world: the Boxing Day tsunami in South Asia, the earthquake in northwest India and Pakistan, the hurricanes along the Gulf Coast of the United States. Why not consider a gift which will help a child, a family or a community in the developing world?

It’s the kind of giving which snowballs. If you start it, your friends may pass it on and reciprocate, better than those annoying chain emails which you have to forward within a few minutes in order for your wish to be granted. Do something tangible and make someone else’s wish come true. You can give as little as £5 or as much as you can afford. There may be other sites for reputable charities. These are just a few. And you’ll be surprised at how satisfying it is. It doesn't have to be Christmas either.

The World Vision: (
Oxfam: (
Send a Cow: (
Present Aid: (