Give the gift of giving

gift-of-giving-beceliaFinding the perfect gift for our loved ones and donating to charity are important parts of our holiday traditions. Psychologists find that, rather than being just a costly tradition, giving to others actually makes us happy. “People who donate their money to charities or splurge on gifts for others are more content than those who squander all the dough on themselves,” says social psychologist Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

As parents, we could not agree more. My husband and I love to see our children’s happy little faces when they unwrap their Christmas gifts – and actually, this is a greater joy than receiving gifts ourselves!   At the same time, it is even more heart-wrenching for us to see how many children around the world grow up not even wishing for more toys, but suffering from a lack of food, medical care and education … To participate in St. John’s shoebox event was a highlight for our family and truly made everyone happy.

We were also glad to find that many organizations now allow us to make a “gift of giving”, that is to purchase from those in need of an income or to donate in someone else’s name. We shop for gifts at the local OXFAM store, and we buy scarfs, Christmas ornaments and other gifts online from organizations, which help families in developing countries make a living. In the past years, we have given our childrens’ teachers UNICEF “inspired gifts”, a donation in the name of their teacher to a school and its students in Asia. Finally, this year, we will sponsor a little girl through Plan International in Africa to ensure she can attend a school all year round – and we look forward to receiving her letters!

Here are some sites to help make everyone’s’ holidays even happier:

OXFAM stores (http://www.oxfammagasinsdumonde.be/)
Online gift shopping (Europe: http://www.thefairtraderscooperative.co.uk/http://www.fairlytrading.com/, US: http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/, http://www.globalgoodspartners.org/cart/results.cfm?cat=p10)
UNICEF (http://www.unicef.org/inspiredgifts/index_51968.html)
Plan International (http://www.planbelgique.be/soutenir-plan/cadeaux-plan/)

By Ulrike Lege, St. John’s parent