Several weeks ago Rebekah made a suggestion about this year's Christmas gift giving. Now I realize that as soon as you read the word Christmas some of you are going to be recoiling in horror. After all, it is only the very first day of September! If that was your reaction you would be the same "holiday personality type" as my oldest son. No matter how early we do our annual drawing of names for our family gift exchange, he does not seem to be able to find time to go shop until the week before Christmas. And that shopping excursion doesn't happen until after he has made a frantic call to confirm whose name he drew, in spite of the fact I will have reminded him a number of times in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
His most egregious season of procrastination occurred several years ago when he had drawn my niece's name. I had heard through the grapevine that she wanted the boxed set of the Harry Potter series. That news came my way in early November and I immediately passed it on to son #1. The week before Christmas I phoned to ask if he had picked up the gift yet. Normally I wouldn't do a rescue like this, but the thought of my niece ending up with no package on Christmas morning was just too much to handle. Karsten covered up his surprise at the news he was to be purchasing the book set by quickly assuring me he would be getting it the next day. It wasn't until after the gift exchange was over and we were left with a pile of discarded wrapping paper littering the floor that the whole story came out. Apparently there had been some confusion over who was going to pick up the books. He though his wife was buying them, but hadn't actually communicated this to her. They were coming out on separate flights due to different work schedules, and it wasn't until a few hours before Karsten took off that he discovered that Diana hadn't bought the books and she was already en route. So instead of heading to the airport he found himself detouring to the closest Chapters. The day before Christmas. With his flight due to take off in under 2 hours. Obviously he did make the flight since he was there telling us the story, but he literally only made it by minutes.
Then there are the plan-aheaders like Rebekah. If you found yourself reading the opening sentence of this post and saying to yourself something along the lines of "Oh right- I better start thinking about this," you most likely fall into this category. With a large family we have found it works best if we each pull a name out of a hat and buy for that specific person. With 5 kids, 2 daughters-in-law and 2 parents it is simply too much to exchange with everyone. Besides, and this would be another post for another day, for a number of reasons we jumped off the Christmas crazy wagon a number of years ago, meaning we have tried to simplify and focus on a family-driven model of Christmas rather than a consumer-driven one.
Here is the part Rebekah wants to change. Her proposal is that we still do the name draw, but tighten up the gift $ limit. Then we would have everyone contribute to a charitable organization. She suggested we do it as a group effort. We would decide ahead of time what organization we want to focus on and pool our money. Her thinking was that would enable us to purchase something substantial like a farm animal for a family in a third world country. I like this idea!
I had planned to do some research over the next month to see what the possibilities are for giving. Then, this morning, I happened upon http://www.charitywater.org/. I learned about this amazing work through a blog I read. Check out http://blog.beliefnet.com/omeoflittlefaith/ to see what this blogger and 29 others are doing during the month of September. There are many things to like about this particular organization, and if you go to their website you can see video clips and hear stories about the difference that access to clean water can make in people's lives. I was also impressed by the fact that 100% of donations go toward the work. How, you may ask, is that possible? The following is taken from their FAQ page:
1. The 100% model: How it works. From the very beginning, restoring people's faith in charity was an important part of our mission. This is why we direct 100% of donors' money straight to on-the-ground project costs. In fact, we're so passionate about giving 100% that we pay the PayPal and credit card transaction fees each time you donate online. Each time someone gives, a true 100% goes straight to the field.So how do we keep our lights on? A group of private donors, foundations and sponsors help pay for the everyday costs of running the organization. Our flights to the field, our staff, our office, even paperclips and ink toner, are sponsored so every penny of your donation goes straight to water projects.
This will certainly be a front runner for potential organizations our family could donate to this upcoming (or far away, depending on your personaltiy type!) holiday season. I am sure many more will come to my attention over the next few months.