Thursday, December 11, 2008

Giving back...

This is a picture of my sister's kids. Collin (left), Eliana, and Alec (right). My sister and her husband adopted Collin from Romania. He lived in an orphanage for the first 3 years of his life. He had a pretty rough beginning to his life. I had the great fortune to go with my sis to Romania to bring Collin home. I saw the orphanage where he once lived. It was heart breaking. They are grossly under staffed. They use 2 wash cloths for all the children. One to wipe all their faces and one to wipe all their bums. There is not enough staff to hold the babies and they're often left in their cribs all day. Romania is a very poor country with extremely limited resources for the thousands of forgotten children. My sister's family gave Collin the gift of a loving family, food, and opportunity he never would have experienced otherwise. We are so blessed to have Collin in our lives. Every time I think of Collin I'm reminded of this, but can't help to think of all the many, many children left behind. Millions of children that will never know a loving touch, a parent or mentor to help them make their way in this complicated world, left to fend for themselves without any skills, support, or family. Opportunity will never exist in their vocabulary. I look at Collin and see a young boy with the world at his finger tips. I can't help to think of the thousands of children I saw begging in the streets in Bucharest for any kindness someone might give so they can put some food in their empty belly or scavenge for some shoes to protect their feet through the long winter.

My mom gave Collin a pair of snow boots for his first Christmas with our family. He opened the package and hugged the boots! Then he put them on elated and content. Of course, not thinking of or looking for the many other packages under the tree with his name on them. Meanwhile the other cousins were opening and discarding package after package. That was one of the many lessons in gratitude that Collin has taught our family. He still carries this innate gratitude with him today, always showing unconditional appreciation and love to us.
Have I tugged on your heart strings enough? Consider giving to a charity for those less fortunate. If you would like to learn more about how to help the children in Romania I encourage you to visit This is a foundation to help Orphans in Romania. My sister personally knows the people who run this foundation. So be comforted knowing that your money truly does reach your chosen child. Often we think of little ones, but there are so many teenagers that need help too! So, so many.
A few years ago we decided among some good friends of ours to sponsor a child through a charity rather than give each other gifts. We've been doing this for 3 years now. It's amazing how much we've been able to help another with our money and at the same time relieve some of the holiday giving stress.

This year my husband's family has decided to do the same thing. Rather than buying gifts for each other, we're taking the money we would have spent on each other and donating to a crisis nursery in Arizona where my sister-in-law works. I've found that this has started some great conversations of gratitude in the family, and again, I don't have to waste hours wondering among items produced in China figuring out which one to purchase for them.

In this time, when people are talking recession and how hard things have been it's a great reality check. Sure money is more tight than in the past, but I never have to think about how I'm going to put food on the table or figure out how to get through the winter with out shoes! Next time your in a big department store trying to figure out what to buy those on your list that don't need anything, consider this option. There are so many in need locally and globally.

If this doesn't quite speak to you then give of your time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

And the race is on...

Christmas is on it's way. I guess in many ways it's already here. For the days leading up to the big day we would like to share with you some holiday gift giving ideas that cost little to nothing monetarily, and hopefully mean quite a bit to the loved one's in your life.

In my family we have a tradition we call the 12 days of Christmas. Twelve days before the 25th we choose a person or family in the community and leave an anonymous gift for them each day until Dec. 25th.

Yes, this can be an investment if you choose. It's really fun to get creative and not spend a lot of money. How about baking or giving a nice loaf of bread, or any kind of food? Other ideas I like are poems or inspiring quotes, pictures, socks, scarves, gloves, a journal, or playing cards. There are so many ideas. If you have kids, then your craft options are endless.

I love this, because it is so much fun to be sneaky and watch your chosen receivers ponder over who in the world is thinking of them. I find that the actual gift doesn't really matter. The fact that someone is thinking of them means the very most.

Maybe you don't want to commit to 12 days. Maybe one day suits you better or a random act of kindness. Maybe you go to a rest home one day and give out hugs! That's a good one! The possibilities are as endless as joy you and your receiver will feel.

I remember one time I was walking through the parking lot to a grocery store and a person that appeared to be homeless passed in front of me and his bag of belongings broke, so I gave him my canvas grocery bags. The bewilderment on his face was great.

May your heart be filled with kindness in this giving season.