Friday, November 26, 2004


The day after Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas shopping season. Not too many years ago, some stores began opening their doors at 8:00 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving. How quaint that now seems. According to ads I saw yesterday, there were some stores opening at 5:30 a.m. this morning. That's just plain wrong!

Inspired by The Motorcycle Diaries (which I finally saw on Wednesday) along with some Thanksgiving Day reflections on the extraordinary blessings that most of us in the United States experience, I've decided to make a few recommendations for this season of giving.

First, consider asking your family or friends for a goat--or a sewing machine or a mango tree. These gifts (and many others) can be given in your name to a family in the developing world through World Vision. (Click on the Gift Catalog.)

Second, consider giving (or asking for) a membership in--or simply a gift to--a non-profit organization that promotes the values you espouse--perhaps Amnesty International, International Justice Mission, Human Rights Watch, Habitat for Humanity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, or another organization that works for justice.

Third, consider giving (and asking for) fewer things. Instead, give (and receive) museum memberships or theater tickets or piano (or voice or guitar or trombone) lessons or restaurant gift certificates. What we experience is much more important than what we own.

Fourth, if you send greeting cards, consider purchasing cards from a non-profit organization so that a portion of the purchase price will help to fund the work of the organization. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) benefits from the sale of cards at Pier One Imports stores and on-line. The Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, Amnesty International, and other organizations sell holiday cards on-line.

Finally, you might be interested in "The Great Green Gift-Giving Guide" on the NRDC web site. There are a lot of ideas for gift-giving as if the Earth mattered.

Do you have other suggestions for giving--and receiving? Please leave a comment if you do.