It is easy to get lost in the wave of commercialism and materialism that hits us this time of year — starting with the shopping stampedes on black friday, now on Thanksgiving (oh the irony). When finding the “perfect” gift becomes a competitive sport. The spirit of giving?
It is nearly impossible to escape the marketing hype coming at us from every media angle. And yes, the Green Divas even did our part to contribute with our 3-part eco-friendly gift guide series (videos, podcasts, blog posts). We rationalized it because we are recommending that people, buy less, make more and keep it local whenever possible, and then we proceeded to share some ideas for good, sustainably made gift ideas that at least promote a healthier/greener lifestyle and are more sustainably manufactured. But still, I admit it. We got sucked in too.
My family and I have scaled back our holiday material pursuits dramatically — but we still exchange some very thoughtful gifts, some handmade, some not. We have grown to value our time together as the real prize. Every year, one of my daughters is my elf and helps me pick our holiday gifts to make and we set up our workshop on the dining room table, the kitchen and make my husband nuts as we spread all over the house sometimes. I love getting creative with my girls, and this time of creating together is one of the greatest gifts of the season for me. My baby Mary, who is now about to turn 21 in a couple of weeks, is this year’s chief elf. That is to say, they are not babies any more, so these holiday craft sessions are entirely different then they were when they were much younger. It is magnificent to watch them do their own crafts now too. Soon, it will be time to do these things with my grand kids.
But every year, I also try to do something for those in our community that are struggling in one way or another. And as much as I love seeing my kids faces light up when they receive a great gift, there is nothing like the feeling I get when I know I have done something to help bring a little joy and hope to someone’s day — someone who needs really needs it. I’ve tried to involve my kids in these activities as well, and am hoping this is a gift to them that will blossom as they grow into the world.
It really started when we had a few very lean years, where it wasn’t so easy to contribute to local charities, which ended up being the best years, because if we decided if we couldn’t give money, we would give our time and energy.
So, don’t think you have to write a check in order to give to a charity, because there are many local charities that would be thrilled to have your help in other ways. Look up your local food pantry or see if any local churches or organizations are doing coat drives, maybe you have a car and can help do deliveries of some kind, or go to the senior living facility and sing carols. Make the call. Find some way to share whatever you have with those who have less and you will find a heart bursting with gratitude and love, and I’m talking about YOUR heart too! Yes, you may help others, but that feeling of gratitude will be a selfishly awesome gift to yourself that will ripple out to all those around you. Viral joy. No known cure. Oh well. Might as well just go with it . . .
Green Divas (& Dude)
Spirit of Giving
I assigned our GD crew with the task of writing a brief description of how they give to their communities or charities during this holiday season and to pick their top 3 favorite charities or ways of giving to recommend to our readers and listeners. Here’s what we do . . .
I’ve written a lot about my thoughts above, but this year, my husband and I and probably at least one of my daughters will be helping at the local food pantry’s saturday lunch, and I will be participating in a visit to one of our local senior homes to bring some holiday spirit. My top three spirit of giving ideas are:
Heifer International – who doesn’t love to give cows, goats and chickens
11th Hour Rescue – They saved my Gracie and many thousands of animals every year
Local Food Pantry – 1 out of 6 Americans is experiencing food insecurity. Find a local food pantry, and volunteer by visiting FeedingAmerica.org.
GD Mizar talked about this on our latest podcast, so she didn’t do any write-up for us . . . Here are two of her favorite charities:
The Lake Drive Foundation for Children Who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing – This is a great local charity that serves all of northern New Jersey
Habitat for Humanity – Of course, GD Mizar likes our local Restore best!
Listen to this week’s Green Divas podcast to hear us talk about the spirit of giving and much more . . .
Green Diva Gina
This is one of America’s oldest organizations and was founded by a retired
Boston sea Captain, Thomas Valentine Sullivan, as a safe “home away from
home” for sailors and merchants. Inspired by the stories of the Y in
England, he led the formation of the first U.S. YMCA at the Old South
Church in Boston on December 29, 1851.
I chose to get my gym membership at the YMCA in Summit to support an
organization so keen on community involvement. I would rather have my gym
membership money go to a non-profit organization than a main-stream
This organization’s goal is to reinvent hunger relief through leadership
and innovation. I really like this because of their creativity to feed
people. They are a member of Feeding America, a national network of more
than 200 food banks serving every state in the United States.
Check out these initiatives;
Harvest to Home’s goal is to collect unsold or un-harvested fruits and
vegetables from farmers and deliver it to the tables of neighbors in need.
Their Food Rescue program sees that fresh surplus goes directly from area
retailers to the shelves of our agency partners, eliminating hundreds of
tons of waste in the process.
And their The Pallet of the Month Club asks for one relatively small
donation from 30 retailers per month. If successful, the program will
generate nearly half a million pounds of first-run food every year.
“Bond Street Theatre uses theatre-based approaches to conflict resolution,
education, and empowerment in areas of conflict and poverty, through
programs for adults and youth, training for teachers, and creative
collaboration with local artists and community organizations. The company
works directly with disadvantaged communities to inspire and uplift them
through the transformative world of theatre.
In addition, Bond Street Theatre creates innovative theatre work that
addresses social and environmental issues, and performs in theatres and
major festivals around the world. The company draws on the musical and
gestural arts of many traditions and the performance styles from many
cultures in creating its original theatre productions.
I really like this organization because of how many nations and people
they have empowered. My close friend worked here and was blown away by the
opportunities this group creates for disadvantaged communities.
I chose these organizations for personal reasons. My Family donates to the ASPCA every month. My wife and I try to make a trip during the holidays to donate food and blankets to the local shelter. Adopt-A-Pet is where we rescued our Dog, Gizmo, who was abandoned and found on the highway, but now is a happy part of our family. When I was in college, I volunteered for Clean Ocean Action. They have done great work along the shoreline over the years.
Christmas Shopping Graphic via Shutterstock