If your family is looking for meaningful ways to reach out to others this Christmas, try one of these ideas:
- Get Their Goat Donate a goat to a family in India ($120) or a cow to a Romanian village ($50 for a share). The Heifer Project catalogue (you can order one at www.heifer.org or by calling 800-698-2511) allows you to send honey bees ($30) to families in Ecuador, llamas ($150) to Bolivian families who market the fuzzy wool the animals produce, or baby chicks ($20) to Camaroon. You can even challenge your church to raise $5,000 to support an "ark" full of animals to be sent all over the world.
- Send Caring Cards Order your Christmas cards from the Combined Charities Christmas Shops (www.christmas-cards.org.uk/front.htm). All the proceeds go to the charity of your choice.
- Take a Working Vacation If your family usually travels at Christmas, why not make it count? Take a Habitat for Humanity Global Village trip (www.habitat.org/GV/) and spend one to three weeks building affordable housing anywhere in the world.
- Open Your House Jews do a great job of inviting strangers to their Passover seders and latke fries and we as Christians can easily do the same at Christmas. Know a college student who can't get home for the holidays? A Christian single with family far away? Do what the owner of that Bethlehem barn did, and invite them to spend the holidays with you.
- Give Your Gifts Away Skip the family gift exchange this year and instead give gifts to a poor family in your community. Local charitable organizations?like the Salvation Army or the Junior League?should be able to help you identify families in need. Then take your child shopping and help him pick out Christmas gifts for children in need.
- Be a Picky Shopper At Greatergood.com, you can purchase items from Marthastewart.com, Amazon.com, REI.com, Gourmet Giftmail.com, FLOWERS.com, the Gap.com, and a host of other retailers. Not only is online shopping easier for you, but 15 percent of your purchase total will go to a charity you designate. Igive.com and Mycause.com offer similar deals.
- Think Local Another way to make a difference with your Christmas dollars is to shop at independently-owned local stores that are having a tough time competing with large chains.
- Feed a Family World Vision (www.worldvisiongifts.org or call 888-511-6511) offers a gift catalog of its own. A gift of $25 is enough to buy clothes for a homeless child in the United States or a month's worth of food for a family of five in Sierra Leone. You can also send Bibles to Christians in Mozambique ($30 sends three) and survival packs for resettling Kosovar families that include personal care items, food and blankets ($80 per pack).
- Help Your Kids Care Adults aren't the only ones who can give. Kids Care (www.kidscare.org) is an organization started by kids who wanted a way to help others. In 1999, kids in Kids Care clubs donated about 1.7 million hours of service and helped 865,000 people! Your kids can start a Kids Care Club (there are already more than 400 in the country) of their own that can help them reach out to others all year long.
Lauren F. Winner is a graduate student at Columbia University in New York. She is the co-author (with Randall Balmer) of an upcoming book on American Evangelicalism.
Copyright © 2000 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today Magazine.
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