Sunday, December 4, 2011

Stretching your holiday giving

Helping others in need is one of the greatest signs of the Christmas season, one that I worry is getting ignored more and more.

So many organizations and people need help. So many in fact, that it seems people turn a blind eye anymore to the "noise" of cries for help.

This year, the first in my decade at my work, my department opted not to adopt a family for Christmas. I know for a few, money was an issue, though with some creative efforts and a small sacrifice of a lunch out, we could have pulled together something for a family in need. It breaks my heart; this was one thing that we truly did as a team, and one that touched little children's lives. How would you explain to your child that he or she was overlooked by Santa on Christmas Day?

The reality is, we all have a lot of gifts to bear. Many of them in our own homes, if we choose to look beyond the clutter, to really look at the unloved toys and things among our excess.

This year, we are still tight on budgets as we are working to rebuild after three years of my husband being out of full-time work. But a little creativity is going to help a single mom of two, who's in college and looking for work, this Christmas.

All in all, I spent $1.25 out of pocket for two little girls. Seriously. Here's how we did it:

  • We looked at gifts that were given but never used by our children. That included two PBS-themed plush puppets, two travel Etch-a-sketches that were used once and then ignored, and a stuffed dog from the Grinch.

  • We looked at what was outgrown but still in pristine condition. That included two children's cookbooks (a Sesame Street story/cookbook and a duplicate Princess and the Frog cookbook), two stashed-away but unused children's winter plates, a Dora fleece blanket and a stack of outgrown Halloween costumes and dress-ups.

  • We looked at our excess. We knew the mom needed many of the basics for everyday living, so we packed a reusable shopping bag with toiletries that we'd bought with register rewards and coupons. We can always watch for future sales and replenish.

  • The $1.25? Spent on a pair of cute pants on clearance for the toddler.

What do you have that you are blessing others with this Christmas season?

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