This December has felt different at my home. I’m off my rhythm. Now, with the events in Connecticut I feel even more adrift.
When I was growing up, whenever I felt hollow or lonely, my father urged me to do something with my hands and my mother encouraged me to help someone. Both things always made me feel better.
I recently met Maia Duerr. Her site, The Liberated Life Project, is a peaceful sanctuary. I don’t yet know how to react to all that has gone on this week; I simply know that continuing with holiday frenzy feels odd. Maia’s words here are well timed for my soul. I know you will benefit as well:
Giving From the Heart
If living beings knew the fruit and final reward of generosity and the distribution of gifts, as I know them, then they would not eat their food without giving to others and sharing with others, even if it were their last morsel and mouthful.
~ Avadana Jataka
There are all kinds of ways to deal with the holiday shopping season. One is to buy nothing on the day known as “Black Friday,” an action pioneered by Adbusters.
Another approach is to take part in the cycle of giving and receiving, but to do it in a way that may be of benefit to others. A few years ago, I got to be on the receiving end of this kind of gift and it warmed my heart more than anything else I’ve received in my life.
I am a big donkey lover. I’m not sure I can even tell you why, but I am. So, that particular holiday season, I was tickled pink when a friend of mine gave me a donkey as a gift. I was delighted to open an envelope from her and see a card featuring a great big photo of my beloved animal. The only catch was that my donkey was actually given to a farmer in Darfur, on my behalf, through Oxfam America.
It turns out that donkeys are a key piece of helping farmers in that African country to become more self-sufficient. The donkeys can transport materials, help with cultivating the fields, and they can also be hired out to others. So in many ways, the donkey made a huge difference in the life of this farmer and his family.
Even though I never got to see my donkey live and up close, this was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. I was so gratified to know that my gift made a positive impact for a family living in a region that has had more than its fair share of suffering.
If you’re looking for a way to give a gift that does more than gather dust and may make a difference in someone’s life, here’s a list of suggestions:
• Seva Foundation’s Gifts of Service
Through Seva, your gift can help restore sight to a blind person in Tibet, Nepal, India, Cambodia or Guatemala, or support other projects that alleviate suffering caused by poverty and disease. Seva works with local people to create sustainable solutions.
• Oxfam America
Oxfam America – the givers of the aforementioned donkey – is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice. Besides the donkey, other gifts include mosquito nets for a family in Africa, a dozen chicks that will provide eggs and income for an HIV/AIDS-infected household, and support for indigenous craftswomen.
• Changing the Present
Changing the Present is a clearinghouse of gifts that “change the world.” Shop here to give everything from an afternoon of tutoring for inner city kids to funding a loan for a widow in India to start her own business. Nonprofits can also register on this site so that more people can learn about their cause.
• Equal Exchange
Equal Exchange is the largest Free Trade company in the US. You can buy organic coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa, and chocolate bars produced by democratically run farmer co-ops in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
• The Women’s Peace Collection
The Women’s Peace Collection an enterprise that fully supports women in regions of conflict and post-conflict as mothers, peace builders and skilled artisans. Their website features handmade jewelry, textiles, and other gifts from around the world, including “dolls of compassion” crafted by Karenni women living in a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border.
• Lulan Artisans: Contemporary designs fused with ancient weaving techniques to create extraordinary hand-woven textiles, apparel, and products for the home. Your purchase helps to support more than 650 weavers, spinners, dyers and finishers in weaving cooperatives in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and India.
• Same Sky: A trade-not-aid initiative that employs HIV+ women in developing countries. Trained as artisans, SAME SKY women earn 15 to 20 times the average Sub Saharan wage to hand crochet beautiful glass bead jewelry. Instead of a HANDOUT, we give these women a HAND-UP and the tools to lift themselves out of poverty. 100% of net proceeds are reinvested to train and employ more women in need.
Thank you, Maia, for bringing a different perspective to December gift-giving.
Have you ever used giving to connect to another part of the world? Do you love donkeys the way Maia does?