Holiday Gifts for a Better World

If there is one thing the world does NOT need right now, it is lots of people buying lots of useless stuff, racking up more credit card debt in the name of Peace on Earth / Goodwill to Men.

But on the flip side, if there is one thing the world DOES need right now, it is connection, tenderness, sweetness. Yes, what the world needs now is love! (Great, now I can’t get the image out of my head – Burt Bacharach on the top level of that double decker bus in Austin Powers!)

So here is the start of a holiday gift list that
a) will create connection,
b) friends and family will love, and
c) is free or cheap!

Please let’s add to this list. It will be a great resource to pull out in years to come, as we are all trying to figure out what to do!

Special Note for Community Organizations
Many of these can be adapted for your organization’s use, not just now but throughout the year. They will make great suggestions for your donors and volunteers as well. If you have other ideas that have worked for you, to engage folks even more during the holidays (not to increase donations – to increase connection), please share!

Doing Something
My 50th birthday taught me that having a friend spend an hour fixing my kitchen sink (a drip I had simply grown accustomed to) was a GREAT gift! So I have decided to pay that forward this year, helping friends with the little nagging chores they don’t want to do.

And by the way – points are deducted if you give them a certificate to do it and then never do it. That will apply to a number of these. (I have a pile of those certificates at home, some dating back to 1993, all waiting to be redeemed. And yes, you know who you are!)

Spending Time Together
This seems like a no-brainer, but our friends and family want time with us more than they want yet another bottle of perfume or another shirt.

I am on the road so much, my mom has threatened to carry a large photo of me wherever she goes, to remind her of what I look like. (She can’t help it; she’s Jewish. The guilt is genetic.) But even when we’re not traveling, life is just so busy. So every year, my mom and I set aside an evening that starts with an early supper. Then I drive her all over town, looking at Christmas lights. We head up to the resorts, we drive through Winterhaven – Tucson’s way-over-the-top Christmas neighborhood.

Even if it’s just setting aside every third Tuesday for breakfast with a friend (something I need to start up again, now that I think of it), time together is WAY better than presents.

Don’t Just Donate to Charity
Yes, definitely donate to charity. But what if, in addition to donating, you and your friend or loved one spend some time together volunteering at their favorite charity? Donations are great, but giving a cash donation and spending time together is fun!

Buy Used
Goodwill. Craig’s List. Great gifts, cheap prices, recycling, saving the planet. ‘Nuff said.

A Friend in Need

Many of us have had rough patches in our lives, when, for whatever reason, we needed a bit of a financial boost. Sometimes it is when we are first out of college. Sometimes it is later on – a crisis hits, and life falls apart.

Having been there, I know the best gifts I got during those times were gift certificates for the basics. Target, the supermarket, Home Depot, the drug store. For anyone going through a rough time, or for college kids just getting started after graduation, I just remember the peace of mind those gifts always brought me. We tend to want to get folks something to splurge a little when times are tough, but in truth, knowing you can make ends meet that month is sometimes the best splurge there is.

Giving an Experience
When my daughter, Lizzie, was little, one of her favorite movies was Singin’ in the Rain. (Oh that video! Over and over and over and over and over. But I digress…) One holiday season a few years ago, when my best friend’s daughter was 7 or so, Lizzie noticed that Singin’ in the Rain was playing on the big screen at our local art cinema.

So we bought 7-year-old Millie the video, and we took her to see the movie on the big screen. And sure enough, it became a favorite of hers. (Over and over and over. Her mom was ready to kill us!)

I know Millie would have soon forgotten just another doll or video game. But she will remember going to see Singin’ in the Rain!

Starting a Tradition
It has always been hard to find the right gift for my mom. But when Lizzie was born, the dilemma multiplied – now I had to get two gifts, one from me, and one from my mother’s new granddaughter!

One day, while I was shopping, I found a pair of funky socks I knew my mom would like. From that point on, for every holiday, every birthday, every Mother’s Day, Lizzie got Grandma socks. As Lizzie grew up, we would go sock shopping together. And now that she is grown, she always knows what to get Grandma. (Imagine my mother’s pride when Lizzie was working on Capitol Hill and got her a pair of Congressional Socks!)

My mother beams from ear to ear as she tells how her friends always check out her feet first thing when they see her, to see which socks she is wearing!


Ok – I’m out of ideas. Anyone else have ideas you’ve used that connect lives rather than collect junk?

Now if you’ll forgive me, I need to go get that song out of my head. “What the world needs now, is love sweet love…”

Photo Credit: Hildy

One Response to Holiday Gifts for a Better World

  1. A unique experience is more memorable than just an ordinary gift. Here’s one thing families can do together: Decorate the house and prepare food for Christmas. Baking and cooking together is an excellent way of spending time with the family. It’s not about probing or asking questions but just about accomplishing something together. 🙂