Now that I’ve offered few tips for taking the stress out of the holiday season (see below), you should have a few moments free to reflect on what really counts. Deep down we all know it’s about love, hope and giving - not about beating that undeserving clod next to you to the last sale-priced cashmere sweater.
If you’re like me, you’ll stop sometimes amid the hustle and the bustle and reflect that you’re blessed with a comfortable home and feel lucky that you can be optimistic that your kids will have the tools they need to succeed in life. If you read the paper, or watch the news, you’ll also know that there are far, far too many places on the planet where the same claims cannot be made. So amid the glitz and glitter, why not cut to the heart of things and give gifts that have real and lasting effect?
One of my favourite options for this is World Vision, which partners with local communities in developing countries to improve lives. Make a donation of $30 and a family receives five fruit trees, enough to start on the road to self-sufficiency. Fifty dollars buys two hens and a rooster to help a family hatch a business. The success of the individual tends to raise up the whole village, giving these gifts even more impact. My husband, who's a teacher, has been deeply touched when families have made a donation to the literacy programs in his name as a holiday or end-of-year thank you.
I’ll never forget the Christmas dinner where far-flung friends and family sat down and started talking about what they had received. Knowing that someone had made a donation to World Vision in our name, one of my kids piped up and said “we got chickens!” At which point my British sister-in-law turned and said, “How marvelous. I got a lady pig!”
The table dissolved into laughter and, as we tucked into our lavish meal, we knew that life for somebody else might, because of a generous friend of ours, get just a little bit better in the new year. These are truly gifts that change lives.