My colleague and friend, Jessica (a.k.a. JJ), gave me the most fabulous holiday gift the other day. I absolutely love it!
It is interesting as over the years it has become the case that I buy the things that I perceive I need or want as the year goes along. There really is no wish list that sits idle until the holidays. So when the kids or hubby ask me what I could possibly want as a gift I have no response. Folks usually end up getting me things that are decorative for the home, jewelry or have some sentimental value; and I treasure these gifts even though I often never conceived buying them myself.
I have a lot of "stuff". Indeed, I could probably go through most of the rest of my life barring any major devastation to my home or dramatic weight gain (how’s that for wishful thinking?) without buying much more. I am "stuff-tight".
Plus, I must say that with age this “stuff” accumulation seems less important. I realize this may be just me in the new forty questioning the meaning of life; but seriously, what do I really need to have a happy life? I can tell you that “stuff” isn’t the answer to that question.
But I digress, back to JJ’s gift. I received a card from JJ on Thursday that said she had donated a set of building tools to a family in Sub-Saharan Africa on my behalf through an organization called Oxfam America. Oxfam America seeks to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice. JJ said that she was inspired to do this based on the blog I wrote in November about Operation Christmas Child (Cheyenne and I undertook this project for the first time this year – see November 17 blog titled: Operation Christmas Child – thank you for the gift! at http://www.areavoices.com/thenewforty/?archive=2009-11).
The card I received from JJ read in part, “These tools do more than assist in the rebuilding process: they are a means of hammering out a better life for communities rebuilding in the wake of disaster. Your gift can help to construct sturdier homes based on earthquake-resistant designs so that communities are better protected in case of future disasters.”
As I said before, I absolutely love it! She tapped into a number of areas that she knows are important to me – thinking beyond ourselves, creating sustainable communities, and my new-found understanding of the face of poverty in Africa (based on my visit to Ghana in February of this year). I am profoundly touched by her thoughtfulness and delighted to learn about this organization – Oxfam America (see http://www.oxfamamericaunwrapped.com/home.php to learn more).
There are many thousands of incredible organizations in this world working to better the lives of others who are struggling (i.e., dealing with issues such as poverty, health, access to education, etc.); working to bring awareness to injustices that occur with animals, the environment or ecosystems; or working in other countless areas where inequity is occurring based on conditions that do not allow for a fair-playing field. Oxfam America is one such organization that has created a system that makes giving a symbolic gift a bit easier; but you should not have to look far to find need.
In a time when we are as a country coming to appreciate that it is time to come back to the basics and step away a bit from the rampant consumerism we have enjoyed with abandon over the past couple of decades, the message of spreading the wealth seems particularly apropos. How much “stuff” do we really need?
Thank you JJ for honoring me with such a noteworthy gift. It is a timely reminder of that oft said holiday phrase (but not often enough lived as it should be) – “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”
Today is December 12th, my challenge to all of you out there busily readying yourselves for the holidays is to make whatever effort you can to contribute to the well-being of others not only as we wind up 2009, but as we head into the promise of 2010. If can be done a hundred different ways, from contributing to a charity on another’s behalf to helping a less-fortunate community member to dropping a couple of dollars into the Salvation Army kettle…just do something.
Mother Teresa once said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” Yes, every small effort helps and matters. Do not worry that what you can do is not enough to solve the ills of the world. If we all do just a little it can add up to an awful lot.
Just do something.
Day one hundred and sixty of the new forty – obla di obla da