Where is Santa?

"How am I going to get hold of that Elmo"! "What am I going to wear to the party"! ... A paradox of the holidays for the haves!

"Can I afford to put a holiday meal on the table"? "How am I going to tell my kids that they are not going to get gifts this year"? ... A paradox of the holidays for the have-nots!

In a world of abundance, parties and gifts become a norm, or even expectations, for the holidays. Ironically, research by a Wharton School economist showed that over $10 billion worth of gifts was essentially ‘wasted' in 2007 due to mismatch of the gifts and the wants of the recipients.

Taking this one step further, consider what resources are used to produce these unwanted gifts, and what ultimately happen to them? Watch www.storyofstuff.com, a 20-minute animation of the lifecycle of that "stuff" in a consumerist society. Hopefully, if you do receive unwanted gifts, they will end up in a donation site rather than a landfill. Here are some organizations that have convenient donation centers or pickup arrangements.

This holiday seasons, instead of trying to find the "perfect" gift, how about re-directing the energy to produce lasting joy, not just to your loved ones, but to the community as a whole. Here are some ideas to have a more meaningful holiday season.

While you are shopping for the next hottest items, consider ordering some of your gifts from charity organizations. The gifts are given to those in need. The gift selection includes daily necessities (e.g. medication kits and education materials), and funding to seed a family business (e.g. funding for a domestic animal to start a farm business). The beneficiaries are sure to appreciate the generosity. Your loved ones can share the joy when they receive the acknowledgements from the charities showing the gifts that are given in their honor. Here are a few organizations that provide holiday gift selections.

Similar to the above, you can make donations to the charities in honor of your loved ones.

While you are thinking about your party menu, consider devoting some energy to feeding the hunger. Organize a food drive at your next party or at work, or volunteer at local food banks or soup kitchens. Here are some organizations that regularly look for volunteers and donations.

Extend your caring passion to those in need. There are many local organizations that are looking for assistance in their daily programs. With the power of the internet, you can easily identify the opportunities that best fit your interest.

To avoid waste, consider letting friends and family know what you desire. Personally, I let my loved ones know that I don't desire any gifts, except canned food, if they insist, which I will gladly drop off at food drive locations.

Let's not load up this holiday season with the burden of materialistic demands. Enjoy this season of openness and giving from a lightness of spirit!

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