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Extraordinary holiday gifts

Is there joy scrambling for bargain-counter happiness?
People of the United States are inundated by the ‘stuff’ of consumerism but we purchase more at this time of year. We have lists of people to buy for: family, friends and coworkers and even ourselves.

Gifts should have some thought put into them, some perception of what might bring joy. It’s a connection, a celebration of a relationship. Do you remember what gifts you’ve received or given in the past year? I remember only those that brought joy, maybe even surprise. Some were gifts I gave, some gifts I received.

Rethink the office gifts of habit, obligation and overconsumption
I’ve seen a wide range of gifts in offices. White elephant grab bags. Contributions to a food pantry. I’ve seen the gifts of obligation: coworkers give gifts for every birthday and at holiday time. Years back when I was in an office that wanted to give our boss a gift, we donated money in her name to Iowa Shares, which today is renamed Embrace Iowa.

There are hundreds of projects to help those who truly need help. Give a gift in honor of someone, rather than giving something that will soon be forgotten. Here are two suggestions:

Embrace Iowa
All the money goes directly to families. Embrace Iowa is sponsored by the Des Moines Register, launched in 1984. This program helps Iowans who need immediate financial assistance and are unable to receive help through other programs. In the past benefit items have included beds, clothing, car repairs, medical expenses, furniture, rent, utilities, home repairs and household items. Send contributions to Embrace Iowa, P.O. Box 310149, Des Moines, Iowa 50331-0149.

Alternative Gifts International, http://www.alternativegifts.org
Ames has its own alternative gift market operating with volunteers from 10 churches. (Disclosure: I am one of the volunteers.) In addition to setting up in churches, the Ames market will be open Saturday, Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 508 Kellogg across from the downtown post office.

Select from 35 national and international plus eight local projects. It could be construction materials to stop degradation of watersheds in Afghanistan. Or a cow to improve the lives of poor families in Mozambique. You get a card and a synopsis sheet of the project to send to the recepient.

The local projects are Bethesda Community Food Pantry, Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support (ACCESS), Beyond Welfare, Emergency Residence Project, Good Neighbor Emergency Assistance, Habitat for Humanity for Central Iowa, Food at First and Story County Community Dental Clinic.

Give extraordinary gifts
Tangible or intangible, make your gifts meaningful. Kindness and joy are good for both the giver and the receiver.

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit."
Nelson Henderson, a Canadian who passed this thought on to his son on the son’s graduation day.

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A beautiful post with excellent suggestions on agencies who will use our gifts to help those in need. I will also add a request to remember those Iowa Guard Soldiers in Iraq, who would be so appreciative to receive "care" packages from the citizens of Iowa.