Ain't nothing the matter with Christmas that a lot fewer presents can't solve. -- Jon Carroll
Jon Carroll has a good point; holiday gift-giving can easily go overboard. But there are ways to do meaningful gift-giving, and I'd like to share some ideas about that, over the next series of blog posts. I wrote an extensive gift-giving guide last year, but I've got more to say this year.
If you really like to give gifts, I suggest taking part in any program in your part of the world that provides gifts to the needy. I've been doing this for years; my local program is Coastside Hope's Adopt-A-Family program. I get a list of what each person in my family needs, and I shop to meet those needs. The emphasis is on clothing: jackets, sweaters, jeans, socks, etc
Want to know where to find a program near you? Sound Money can help.
For a thoughtful analysis of adopt-a-family programs, read Sandy Stonesifer's article in Slate. Here's just part of what she writes; it's really worth reading the whole thing.
Adopt-a-family programs are a particularly powerful way to get children and families engaged in community outreach, and a great way to show our neighbors that we care. But whether or not you decide to adopt a family this year, remember that people need services year-round — not just during the holidays.For a no-shopping alternative to adopt-a-family programs, you could try the Untied Way - and that's not a typo. Since I started this post with Jon Carroll, let me end with him; the Untied Way is his idea. Again, I highly recommend the whole column; this is just a short excerpt.
Here's what you do: Go to an ATM near you and withdraw a given amount of money, perhaps slightly more than you can afford. Maybe $200; something like that. Then go to an area of your community where you're pretty certain to be asked for money. Every time you are asked for money, give that person a $20 bill. Repeat until the money runs out. It's as simple as that. ...[Image from Houston Children's Charity 2007 Adopt-A-Family program]
Remember this: Where you're sleeping tonight is almost certain to be nicer than the place where they're spending the night. They might spend your money on a secondhand coat or a pair of used shoes; they might spend it on crystal meth. You're not determining their worthiness to receive your sanctified $20; it's merely a moment of connection and a moment of grace. Everyone feels better, at least for a little while.