I looked at my husband last week over lunch and declared that I know what I want for Christmas this year. Ever the eager husband, he leaned forward ready to memorize my list. I told him I want to give. He looked at me and I explained that we have everything we need. Sure I would like some “things” but that really is not who I want to be anymore.
I furthered my argument that the only thing I want to buy for him is a few shirts and a new pair of jeans. These are not gifts of the heart. When we were kids when we received the few shirts and a new pair of pants we were thrilled! We only received clothes twice a year. It was a treat and something to be cherished. Now buying clothes for many families is no longer special. My husband agreed and said he wouldn’t appreciate the clothes.
He waited for me to tell him what I wanted. I exhaled and said I want to give money to friends who I know are struggling. I realized this summer the power of crowd funding. I watched my middle son create a Kickstarter with the greatest number of supporters in North Dakota history. When I talk about crowd funding or Kickstarter people often don’t know what I mean.
The concept is simple. Instead of going to a bank for a loan people are turning to the general public to help finance their needs or dreams in life. We are the crowd and we fund the project, often with nothing in return but for the knowledge that we helped another human being. The one my son worked on was for the Enchanted Highway, the worlds largest collection of scrap metal art. He worked with the artist to help him generate funds towards his next sculpture. Without crowd funding and the support of Kickstarter the next sculpture would not happen. Over the summer we got to know the artist Gary and his mission in life to save his small town in western North Dakota.
I have a neighbor that is raising funds to help train local law enforcement and provide equipment for children and vulnerable adults who wander with a project called projectlifesaver.org . Another friend lost her leg unexpectedly and needs months to recover and find a new normal while not being able to work. And still another friend is in the process of adopting a baby from Ethiopia as their name came to the top of the list much faster then expected. This is what I want for Christmas. I want to help.
We all have people we know who are in need. So don’t wrap another gift, instead take the funds towards that shirt and pair of pants and give instead. This is easy for my husband and I as we are adults. But what if you have small children who are “expecting” large gifts? My one piece of advice is to start small.
When our children were young we would grab the tags off the tree at church and buy some gifts. Take your children shopping with you. Have the discussion that to some people having new socks is an exciting thing. These are important conversations to have with our kids.
Sort and find the nearly new toys that your children do not play with and find an organization in your community to drop them off to. I think it is always important to take your children with you so that they can see the impact. Often it will just be the dropping off at a front desk. But you can have the conversation about what a shelter is depending on your child’s age.
Volunteer to ring a bell as a family. Take it a step further and don’t just ring the bell, but talk to your family about what happens to the funds that end up in the bucket. Make it real for them. Or perhaps prepare a meal for the families that stay at a Ronald McDonald house.
Sponsor a child through the many organizations that are out there. Contact your place of worship and see if there is a family that is flying under the radar that needs some assistance. When I worked as a family law lawyer I remember a family where the children were organizing a fake food fundraiser, the food was for them. That took my breath away. Simply find a cause that is near and dear to your heart. There are so many deserving organizations and people if we just take a look.
Just please make sure that the funds that you are sending are to a reputable source. Either know the people directly or research the organization ahead of time. There are some holiday Grinch’s out there so do your homework.
So join me in wrapping a few less gifts this year and instead impact a family or a person in a different way and give a gift that will keep on giving. Or if you buy some shirts and a pair of pants for your husband, instead drop them off at a local shelter because often the adults in need are over looked during this time of year.
To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,
Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things!