Sunday, December 02, 2007

My month of giving

Each year during this time, we’re encouraged to give presents. Regardless of your religious affiliation, the celebration of “Christmas” in America seems to have long ago transitioned into a national shopping holiday. Anyone who has ever fought tooth-and-nail for a parking space to go into a crowded mall and sit on Santa’s lap knows that the key question he asks is: “What would you like for Christmas?” And unlike a Miss America pageant, if you say “World Peace” – he’s going to give you a weird look.

So instead of making this season about buying, I want to truly make this season about giving. Christmas is not about acquiring more stuff – it’s about (and brace yourself, because I’m about to get hokey here) realizing how much love you have, and sharing it with others.

This year, I am aiming to spend at least 20 days during December giving – either by a donation of money or time.

Yesterday marked World AIDS Day, with events held around the world – including a huge 10-hour concert in Johannesburg, South Africa – the country which is estimated to have the world’s highest percentage of people living with AIDS.

I donated online through the UN Foundation, which works directly with the United Nations to identify and direct funds to worthy organizations worldwide. (You can donate as little as $5.)

Possibly the most visible campaign against AIDS, the Product (RED) campaign – also contributes a portion of money made through the sales of Product (RED) items towards the Global Fund, which focuses on eliminating AIDS in Africa. If you’ve purchased a (RED) Gap t-shirt, iPod Nano, or Armani wristwatch – a portion of those proceeds support the campaign.

This year, make a pledge to yourself. Skip a couple of morning lattes, pack a lunch from home, take the $10 or $15 you save and give it to a worthy organization. Or donate an old coat to kids who don’t have one. Serve a meal at a shelter.

If you can, hand-make cards and gifts. They’ll be more meaningful – because they were made with love.

Stay tuned for more ways to give.

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