What do you want for Christmas?
This week, many people are getting holiday cards ready to mail out. Kids are writing their lists for Santa. People are dropping subtle (or not-so-subtle) hints to friends and family about what they want for Christmas. I used to do the same: scramble around to get the cards just right, go nuts making sure I didn’t forget anyone and brainstorm what I might want for Christmas. But a few years ago, I decided to change it up a bit.
It’s not that I don’t like getting gifts. Simple gifts, especially homemade ones and local ones, are wonderful, and I always appreciate them. But I started feeling a little bogged down by all of it. Do I really need any more stuff? Does anyone really want another card that is just going to end up in the recycle bin?
So instead of all that, I pick a few causes that inspire me, make a donation, and let friends and family know that the best gift they could give me is to do the same.
I remember thinking as a kid how it would be so cool if I had tons of money and could help out so many charities and causes (yeah…had sort of a compulsive-do-gooder-rescue-everybody thing going on. Still do…) I wanted to have giant farm and take in all the homeless animals both wild and domesticated. Think Jane Goodall meets Dr. Doolittle. (Still haven’t totally given that idea up either…)
As I got older (and not much wiser) I still thought that I needed lots of money to be able to give. I still don’t make lots of money, but after awhile, I did realize that I don’t need lots of it to give some of it where it’s needed. I seem to always find enough money to grab a cup of coffee, or rent a movie, or buy something small that I don’t really need. It should be just as easy to find the money to give to something that will last longer and do more good in the world than a cup of coffee. It’s great to talk about dharma. It’s great that we are learning so much from our yoga practices. But what good is it if that’s where it ends? What good is all the talk if we don’t walk it?
These are places where I’ve given this year, and would love to see the people who care about me give there too. I have enough gloves. I don’t need any new DVD’s. I always forget to wear jewelry. I’d still love some homemade cookies and a hug, but I’d rather pay my gifts forward this year.
1. Local “no kill” shelters. This is a big one for me. I love animals and have given to a variety of animal charities over the years. Lately, I’ve been supporting local ones, with time, money, and by adopting rather than buying pets. The ASPCA is another great choice if you don’t know of a reputable local shelter.
2. I AM. To me, this is a group that has truly 100% taken their yoga off the mat and into the world. Jessie and Will Baxter have reached out to impoverished women in Guatemala and connected their skills with the yoga community. This is no bailout, folks. These are real people working together for change.
3. TINY: A Story About Living Small. This is the gist of my original dilemma. We have so much––when is it enough? Bigger isn’t necessarily better. More isn’t better either…it’s just more. I started reading about this project a few months ago, following up on a link a friend sent me. This is an idea that I’d love to see catch on, and I can’t wait to see the finished film project.
4. Libraries and Literacy Charities. If I had to pick one passion to pass on to my children, it would be reading. Reading isn’t just about enjoying a good story. Reading takes you places, makes you an informed citizen, and piques your curiosity. Supporting your local library is a small financial commitment that can make a huge difference, especially for the children in your community.
5. Mindful Media. I have a subscription to elephant journal, and I will probably give a few as gifts this year. Why? It’s not so people read what I have to say. If that was it, I would just write up my posts and email them to friends or stick them on blogger. It’s because indie media is a “use it or lose it” proposition. It’s because I want to pave the way for my children to read honest journalism instead of increasingly corporate sponsored media. It’s because…well…I think that working together to create an enlightened society is pretty important. (And I’m a big fan of putting my money where my mouth is.)
What causes inspire you? Your local soup kitchen or food pantry? Sustainablility? Political campaigns? Occupy? Human rights issues? You don’t have to wait until you can help everyone. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Consider putting them on your wish list this year.