‘Tis the season of giving! My awesome wife is already done with our family’s Christmas shopping except for the intra-family gifts that we’ll do later. She LOVES Christmas shopping. The challenge and thrill of picking the right present for so many people are one of her favorite parts of the season. Not so for me. It’s not that I don’t like spreading joy to my loved ones with gifts. It’s that I’m not a creative gift-giver, so the prospect of picking just the right gift for lots of people sends my stress level skyward. Will they like what I chose for them? Will they be disappointed if I get them the same thing as last year that they seemed to enjoy? Or is that a cop-out? So I am eternally grateful that my wife loves to shop, which is reason #128,105 that I married the right woman, but I digress…
The one type of shopping that doesn’t stress me out is buying gifts for complete strangers who are in need. Those kind of presents seem to fit the season even better than the other kind. Don’t get me wrong – I love getting presents and giving them to my people, but it just feels right to give good things to those who might not have them otherwise. Every single thing on my Christmas list is a want. Many others list actual needs, needs that you and I can help meet this Christmas.
Borrowing the idea from Rachel Held Evans’ excellent post, here are some gift ideas that will make a huge difference in the life of someone you’ll probably never meet, but who will be extremely grateful.
Quality Coffee to Fund an International Adoption
Quentin and Jessica live in New York and are trying to adopt a little girl from South Africa. The adoption costs around $20,000. They have teamed up with a great little Internet coffee company called Just Love Coffee to raise money for their adoption while hooking you up with tasty java. They sell a wide variety of coffee from numerous countries, including several organic and/or fair trade choices. I just ordered some of the African Skies blend and the Rwandan Coopac. For every bag you order, Just Love donates $5 to help Quentin and Jessica bring their little girl home.
Clean Water for South Sudan
My biggest water is that sometimes I tilt the cup too high and spill something on my shirt. For a huge number of people in South Sudan, the biggest problem is finding clean water. For some, the only available water is muddy and tainted with disease, parasites, and animal waste. For others, clean water is available, but only after hiking several miles carrying a heavy five-gallon jug.
Water is Basic is changing that. By drilling over 400 clean water wells so far, it has provided a new life for hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese. You can help.
Salvation Army Angels
Although I don’t agree with all of its positions, the Salvation Army helps a huge number of people in need every year. One of the biggest way they help at Christmastime is the Angel Trees, a simple plan that matches a child or adult in need (the angel) with someone who can help by buying them clothing, toys, and other items and then delivering them to a local drop-off center. Each year we “adopt” two boys about Brenden and Jonathan’s age and let them help us decide what to get them. It’s one way we’re trying to help the boys focus on giving rather than getting this season.
World Vision Microloans and Gift Catalog
Many of you already know I’m a big fan of World Vision’s Gift Catalog, which lets you purchase unusual but helpful things for people in need such as goats, cows, school fees, and seeds. This year, World Vision has set up a new option as well – a Kiva-style microloan program. You can search for individual entrepreneurs who want to borrow small amounts of money to expand their businesses and raise their quality of life. Many are farmers who want to buy seeds or fertilizer or another animal. Instead of paying you back, the money goes back to World Vision and is loaned out again to another small business owner. Both the gift catalog and the microloan program are great ways to help people climb out of poverty one step at a time.