Gifts of Love

Last year, about this time, I posted a blog entitled Environmentally Friendly Gift Giving.  I suggested giving items that do not harm the planet, like “consumables”, or products that displace the use of plastic (e.g., reusable water bottle), or an “experience” – all items in lieu of “stuff”. I also suggested giving someone a little bit of your time, perhaps as simple as a phone call.  If you haven’t read this post, I invite you to check it out.  Our planet could use a bit more love than it has been receiving for the past decades. 

Later that month I posted My Christmas List, which included a few more ideas for the things I wanted, like “see more people become aware of how much our planet is struggling as a result of climate change”, or give a gift to our planet, such as having a tree planted in someone’s name.  Many organizations, like the Arbor Day Foundation, make this kind of gift-giving easy.

Recently, I received such a gift. For my birthday, my children and grandchildren, in my name, had 70 trees planted by the Arbor Day Foundation in the Wallow-Whitman National Forest – a huge forest in Oregon overlapping Idaho.  (Guess my age?)  Many cities also have ongoing tree-planting initiatives that invite support.  Houston’s “Super Trees” initiative is a good example of this. I read once that if everyone in the world planted 129 trees, it would add up to 1 trillion trees – enough to make a huge difference in the amount of CO2 absorbed from the atmosphere and providing more hope for addressing our climate crisis. I haven’t done the math, but I’m sure every single tree planted will help.

This year, my wife and I received an invitation through our church to donate gifts to five organizations that provide support to people in need – children, the homeless, immigrants, and the unemployed.  The “gifts” they requested were so basic – e.g., personal care items for adults, simple toys and games for children – that it was hard to ignore the amount of essential care many individuals need, certainly aggravated as a result of the pandemic.  We decided to purchase some of the gifts using money we would typically spend on each other for Christmas gifts.  We’ll do fine without an extra sweater or shirt this year. 

Another option for giving is through an organization established by Nicholas Kristof – a writer for the New York Times.  Kristof invites us to give a gift that changes lives.  This year he has chosen three organizations to receive proceeds given to his organization. Camfed (originally called the Campaign for Female Education) helps girls in African countries get an education. One of the world’s best investments is to help a girl go to school in a country like Ghana, Malawi or Zimbabwe. One year in high school costs $150, elementary school about $30.  A second organization chosen is OneGoal, which mentors low-income students in the United States, helping them graduate from high school and succeed in college. OneGoal ensures that black lives matter (96 percent of participants are students of color) and it provides a bridge for them to complete high school and get a solid start in college. The third organization chosen for 2020 is the Himalayan Cataract Project, also known as Cure Blindness, which fights blindness in Asia and Africa. The surgery can cost as little as $25 per person, or $50 for both eyes.  Kristof’s web site, KristofImpact.org, makes it effortless for anyone to support these three organizations and learn more about them. Focusing Philanthropy, a nonprofit Kristof has partnered with, will process contributions through the web page and report back to you on results.

Finally, if you want to give someone something tangible, that just might remind them of things they can do to save our planet, consider giving them the “ÁBCs To Save Our Planet”.  I posted this list in a previous blog and decided to print a copy for our refrigerator as an ongoing reminder of what I can do.

Since that posting, I’ve received some very favorable feedback on these “ABCs” and I decided to have it printed on coffee mugs that I can give to others. I’ve chosen Society6.com to produce these coffee mugs – and anyone can purchase one if you want a gift that might inspire others. There are other products available (e.g., stickers, prints) so if you’re interested in this, go to this site or Society6 and search “MikeThatFoodGuy” for my store.  I receive a small portion of the proceeds and donate all profits I receive to the Sierra Club, to support their ongoing advocacy work for our planet.

The giving of unconditional gifts – in any amount – to people you love, or people that need help, is something that will make a difference in the lives of others, and the giver usually receives the most joy.  Happy holidays! Happy giving!

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