Rethinking holiday gifts

Tonight, I’ll tell my one-month-old baby that I’m giving him a baseball stadium for Christmas. I figured this out at 3:30 in the morning when his cries made me appreciate the small conveniences of life. Take our bottle warmer: The process to heat a baby’s bottle is not really difficult, but in the early hours of sleepless nights, a bottle warmer can give a new father some semblance of ease.

Convenience is something we often take for granted: easy access to food, shelter, and, at this time of year, presents. I recently saw a commercial for Burger King, touting its “Dollar Holidays” card promotion–sending a holiday gift card containing a dollar bill to “casual friends.” According to BrandWeek, more than 8,000 of these gift cards were sold on the program’s first day alone. There’s something in the magnitude of that number that disturbs me. Perhaps it’s the new baby making me ask questions, but is this really what the season of giving has become?

Don’t get me wrong. I like presents. I like giving. I like getting. Some of my fondest memories are of avoiding creaking floorboards on Christmas morning to see our tree lit up, presents arranged underneath, the cookies and milk left for Santa Claus gone. When it comes to Christmas presents this year, Gallup’s first look at 2009 spending found that Americans plan to spend an average of $740 on gifts this year. That’s starkly down from two years ago – and 65 percent of Americans return holiday gifts every holiday season. We are a country that likes to give and get, and return.

Starting a giving tradition that generates many happy returns . . .

As a recent addition to the JustGive family, I’ve decided to start a new tradition this year and give a gift that that keeps on giving: A donation to a cause I believe in.

Imagine if the 8,000 people who jumped at the chance to give their friends a BK cheeseburger did the same and gave to the Capital Area Food Bank For that same $1, the food bank can provide three meals to someone in need. But what personally interests me is the Capital Area Food Bank is leading the DC-area Farms to School movement: remaking school lunches into nutritious and delicious meals while supporting local farmers. In a culture beset with Dollar Holidays, that’s something a whole lot better I’d choose to support.

Convenient, meaningful gifts

JustGive makes it easy to give back – the type of convenience I appreciate. Three thoughtful e-gifts they offer can make a difference, starting with as little as $10:

    • Donate to charity in your friend, family member or colleague’s name.

      Make the gift personal and donate online, in a few short minutes. You don’t even need to know the name of a charity. Use convenient search tools to quickly find one that supports the cause your recipient cares about.

          This holiday season, you can select from a wider variety of charity gift cards. More than 12 available images make it easy to find one that expresses your sentiment best. Designed for every need, the cards fit Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Years, and represent many charitable causes, including education, children, and peace on Earth.  It’s the perfect gift of choice for your recipient, who redeems the card to support their favorite charity.

          A few of the gift card images available

            • Give a Gift Collection—A “gift basket” of four charities supporting a specific cause.

              A dozen already-packaged gift collections focus on feeding the hungry, creating homes and jobs, mentoring children, protecting animals, respecting elders, planting trees, saving the earth, promoting human rights, pursuing peace . . . and more. Gift Collections start at $40 and are available for any amount.

              My choice

              A small donation to a grassroots organization like City Green, an organization that promotes environmental equality through inner city gardens and education, can make a big impact in the life of a community. City Green supports the Cougars Go Green student club, which is now in its second year. These young students – with the help of donors such as my family – are working to restore the crumbling Hinchcliffe Stadium in their backyard to the thriving city asset it once was when the New York Black Yankees played the Philadelphia Stars in 1933.

              That means that tonight, during my next 3:30 a.m. feeding, I’ll have more than a warm bottle to give my son. I’ll be able to share the joy of giving back.

              Now there’s an idea to share with your friends!

              – Grant La Rouche

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