Advent and the Christmas season are racing towards us at warp speed and the hyper-consumerism that has already invaded our favourite stores is incredible. I hate it. And I find myself wanting to change the culture in which we live. And to do that I think we need to do what The Story of Stuff Project suggests:
What if the goal of our economy wasn’t more, but better — better health, better jobs and a better chance to survive on the planet?
It seems like a very important question to ask ourselves as we get ready to celebrate the coming of Christ. Maybe before we get caught up in the consumer frenzy we need to watch this video.
And now what do we do about it, not just for ourselves but more importantly for our kids. One possibility is helping kids to enjoy the blessing of giving rather than receiving. The list below is adapted from one that I found in Parent Map a few years ago.
1.Support Kids of the World: Helping your children understand that other kids don’t have the privileges they do and need their help can be an enjoyable experience. I love what VIVA, a UK based organization does in sponsoring Christmas parties in poor communities around the world. They are engaged in many ways to help keep children at risk safe and healthy. I have used their child friendly educational prayer resources for years. You may also like to consider organizations like Save the Children and Feed The Children.
2. Buy a livelihood for families. Gifts that provide a livelihood for those who struggle with hunger and poverty can be particularly meaningful as they empower children and make them realize we can all make a difference in this world. World Concern; and Heifer Project are just a couple of the organizations that now provide opportunities for the giving of livestock – from chickens to cattle but as I mentioned in a previous post on Advent resources for Kids, this can sometimes be a little confusing as the chair of our Board found out when he tried to give 1/2 a goat to his parents for Christmas. His mother asked “What will I do with 1/2 a goat?” Tearfund UK has a program where you buy a gift voucher and then the recipient decides what they will give. This might be more fun for some kids.
3. Donate a Bedtime story. This was a new one for me. Many families have few or no age-appropriate books in their home and kids miss out on the important literacy building ritual of bedtime stories. First Book is a non profit that works to distribute new books to low income families in schools in the U.S. and Canada.
4. Hold a Make Something Party. Some years ago Adbusters started a Buy Nothing Day campaign to counteract the Black Friday shopping frenzy of North American Culture. I prefer the Make Something Day idea which places a far more positive spin on the idea. Unfortunately as a movement it seems to have lost momentum but we can still organize a party where your kids can help make gifts for underprivileged kids in your communities. There is something very special about a gift that has been handcrafted. I can guarantee that the recipient will hold onto it for years to come.
5. Make a Loan, help a family. This is a great suggestion for older kids that you not only want to encourage to give but who you also want to learn about investing and financial responsibility. KIVA andHope International are two of the many Christian organization that facilitate micro-lending.
6. Shed a Light on a Brighter Future. One Million LIghts is a non profit that aims to provide sustainable, usable lights to homes without electricity in developing countries through a buy one give one model. Buy solar-charged lanterns and you keep one and a family in need gets the other – a brilliant (pardon the pun) idea.
7. Give Hope for Tomorrow: Plant a Tree, Buy a Stove. In Plant with A Purpose’ alternative gift catalogue, for example, a tree only costs $1 and a fuel efficient stove is $30. I think that this type of gift can be a wonderful educational tool to help children understand the consequences of environmental degradation. Again the fact that we can actually do something to change the situation can be very empowering for young people.
8. Invite International Students Over for Christmas. There are lots of students from around the world that do not have anywhere to go for Christmas. Consider inviting them over on either Christmas eve or Christmas day. Contact your local college or university to find out how to extend this invitation. We have done this for the last couple of years. It has become a real highlight of the Christmas season for us. In conjunction you may like to get your kids to read up on Christmas traditions from around the world. Christmas Around the World has a wonderful description of traditions from a variety of countries that you might like to discuss. The Worldwide Gourmet has a wonderful array of recipes associated with the Advent and Christmas season in many different parts of the world. Just reading through some of these had my mouth watering.
9. Go Fairtrade with all your purchases. There are a growing number of organizations that provide fair traded gift items. Ten Thousand Villages is one one that we have frequented for years. Another possibility is One World Futbol’s smart soccer ball requires no pumping and never goes flat. Each time you purchase one another is donated to a community in need. Or for those that live in the Seattle area take you kids on a tour of Theos Chocolates and end by purchasing gifts for all the family.
10. Protect the World’s Animals. There are many creative ways to help protect the world’s animals. You might like to adopt an animal at your local zoo or contribute to an animal shelter or participate in one of the World Wild Life’s projects. One of my standard Christmas gifts is National Wildlife Federation’s monthly magazines – Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick Jr. It is an award winning educational magazine that provides entertainment and instruction throughout the year.
I have probably said enough but if you want to check out some other ideas:
Momastery – Mastering the Mom has a great suggestion.
And if you are still not sure what to do consider this: What if the goal of our economy wasn’t more, but better — better health, better jobs and a better chance to survive on the planet?