The economy, the holidays, giving and social capital

Give reconciliation a chance  (photo by araleya)

Give reconciliation a chance (photo by araleya)

I heard recently of one school teacher reminding children that many parents are currently out of work.  The teacher asked her pupils to think of one gift that they got that they never used and one gift that they could give or ask for that doesn’t require any money. Then she asked the students to think about the economy and the fact that it is often hard to know whether parents are in good or bad financial shape in forming their holiday “wish lists.”  I learned of a mother that sometimes gives her children a birthday or Christmas “get out of jail card”.  It’s a card that has no expiration date and can be used once by her children to escape punishment/consequences on “non-federal offenses.”

I welcome thoughts from readers of “social-capital friendly” ideas for these financially stressed holidays.  Here are some starter ideas:

- Making gifts with others to share

- Giving Circles: where each person contributes a small amount of money and the group decides how to collectively use the money for good.

- Group volunteering projects for others inside or outside your community.

- Potluck holiday parties

- Finding an opportunity to do something nice to former friends with whom you have had a falling out or people with whom you are not now on speaking terms.  Give reconciliation a chance.

- And it’s not about finding financial alternatives to giving, but Changing the Present has a nice list of gifts one can give to help others.

Note: Caribbean Girl has a nice simpatico post talking about how “the long walk” is a more important part of holiday gift-giving than money.  Excerpts of her post (of relevance regardless of one’s religious beliefs):

An African boy listened carefully as his teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas day. “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship for each other,” she said.

When Christmas day came, the boy brought to the teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty. “Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?” the teacher asked as she gently fingered the gift.

The youth told her there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found…a certain bay several miles away. [T]he teacher was left speechless.

“Why…why, it’s gorgeous…wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me.”

His eyes brightening, the boy answered, “Long walk part of gift.”…

While they [the magic] gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh…, they also gave another gift…a long walk. We don’t know how far the magi traveled, but we do know it took months, perhaps years, for them to reach their destination. Their long walk was part of the gift.

We ought to think about what we can give these holidays where “the long walk” (our efforts and care for another) shows our love more than what we spend.

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One response to “The economy, the holidays, giving and social capital

  1. Thanks for the nice mention of http://www.ChangingThePresent.org

    For readers who are interested, visitors can find more than 1,600 tangible charitable gifts such as:
    • preserve an acre of the wilderness
    • provide a child with her first book
    • fund an hour of cancer research
    • feed a family for a week
    • or even sponsor cataract surgery to restore a blind person’s sight.

    You can also personalize beautiful printed greeting cards, which include a photo and description of your gift, right from the site.

    Keep up the great work!

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