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December 15, 2008

Deck the Halls with...Donkeys and Chickens?

        Handcircle_17 I don’t want a donkey for Christmas.

Nor do I want twenty chickens, a goat or the three little pigs wandering around my living room under my tree on Christmas morning.  I don’t want a fruit tree, a hundred pounds of rice and beans or a water pump wrapped up in fancy paper and bows.

But I don’t need that stuff either.

My Christmas shopping has involved brand name clothing and accessories, high-end colognes, fancy candles and home décor items and electronics.  Lots and lots of electronics.  None of which, come to think of it, I need either.  Nor does anyone on my shopping list, for that matter.

        But shop I have, doing my part to stimulate our languishing economy by racing through malls, scouring the internet and perusing mountains of catalogues.  And frankly, I’m getting a little sick of it.

So when I returned from the mailbox the other day with more catalogues, the equivalent of 100 trees, by my estimation, I thought about dumping the entire pile into the trash before I even hit the front door.  Then I saw that face.

While most of the catalogues clotting up my kitchen counters boasted the latest, greatest whatchamacallit on their covers, this one was different.  From the cover of this catalogue beamed the dark-complexioned, dark-eyed face of a child, probably no more than six years old.

I sat down and opened the book.  What I saw left me humbled, and not a little ashamed.  For the producers of this catalogue did indeed want me to spend my money, but they wanted it for necessities, not luxuries.

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Food for the Poor, Inc. is “the largest international relief organization in the United States, having provided over $4 billion dollars in aid to over 16 countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America since its inception in 1982.  In 2007, more than 96% of all donations went directly to programs benefiting the poor, with administrative costs comprising only 3.22% of the charity’s total budget.

But back to the catalogue.  Food for the Poor—and really, can the name say any more?—provides opportunities to feed a child for a month, a family for a year, or give a tractor trailer full of food for a village.  You can give a water pump or build a well.  Those chickens will furnish a family with eggs and sustainable food.  The donkey?  A way for a family to bring goods to market to sell.  You can give a pond stocked with fish or a sewing machine and thread to help someone start a business.  And if you’re really feeling generous, you can build a family a home.  Present any of these items in honor of those on your holiday list and a gift card alerts your loved one to your donation in their name.

The cost of such life-changing generosity?  That’s up to you.  Gifts range in price from $10 for a fruit tree to $8400 for that fish-stocked pond.   What I do know is that any one of those items will last far longer than a bottle of cologne and will leave in its wake something much sweeter—the knowledge that, in the immortal words of the Grinch, “Maybe Christmas…doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

This is an original post to Philly Moms Blog.  Mary Fran Bontempo writes at www.maryfranbontempo.com

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