Donating for the Holidays

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There are many kinds of wonderful holidays celebrated all around the world. They can be times to bring people together, deepen one's faith, and generally enjoy living. However, the Western World--particularly in the U.S.--has turned some holidays into times of increased stress, excess, and waste. Rather than a true celebration, many people feel overwhelmed by obligations, and they are lost in the rush to meet these obligations rather than to celebrate anything. Additionally, people spend too much money on gifts that don't get used, aren't wanted, and end up in the trash. According to the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S., "[t]he volume of household waste in the United States generally increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day – about 1 million extra tons." Obviously, that's not just gifts. That includes food scraps, wrapping paper, and all kinds of stuff. In this aspect of life, the ego has completely taken over many people's holidays, and that has left little room for joy, peace, or charity.

It's this last one that I felt like focusing on today because particularly for a holiday like Christmas, it feels like charity is a really important aspect to be celebrated and practiced. Giving and receiving from others can be a beautiful spiritual practice and how we give is important. However, instead of a practice of charitable reciprocity with one another during Christmas and Thanksgiving, there's also the opportunity to direct our money and energy towards situations, organizations, and people who serve the public good. And I wonder: What could all of the money that is thrown away on so much unnecessary stuff have done if it had gone to charity instead?

Creating More Conscious Holidays

It may seem like changing social habits is an impossible task, but individuals collectively have power. And change starts with each individual. So if you are interested in having more conscious holidays, I encourage you to take back control over how you engage with the holiday season, and in particular, consider how you direct your money-energy; money, after all, is just a form of energy and where we send it defines the things, situations, and holidays we create.

One way you can bring more conscious awareness to your holidays is by asking people to donate to a charity rather than to buy you a gift this holiday season. Sure, there's nothing ultimately wrong with receiving gifts, but how much of that stuff do you need or use? I can't remember even a tenth of the things I've been given over the years.

When a person donates to a charity in your name rather than giving you a gift, you're doing a number of things all at once:
  • You're helping an organization that helps other people.
  • You're directing money towards a social good rather than a company that is probably focused on achieving profit for the sake of profit.
  • You're setting an example for others in your life.
  • You're preventing the waste and carbon dioxide emissions that would be associated with a gift. Anything created and shipped to an area has an environmental impact, and those environmental impacts have created increasingly levels of disharmony in the environment and health hazards towards all living beings.
As you can see, that's quite an impact you achieve simply by asking others to not give you gifts but to donate to charities instead.

Making Changes in Your Family/Social Circle

Depending on your family and friends, you may be able to open a discussion around how you collectively approach the holidays. When dealing with adults, this will likely lead to compromises, but there can be plenty of positive steps. Perhaps, some gift-giving for Christmas is still done, but then the family pools a certain amount of money to donate to one charity. Maybe everyone donates a little to different charities. Maybe the family has rotating charities each year to which they donate. Maybe the family goes to a charity event together, or the more proactive families could start and host a charity event. There are a lot of ways that charity can be included into the spirit of the holiday season.

For those who are parents, talking with one's partner is key. The older the children are, the more they'll need to be included and listened to so that they understand why changes to the holiday traditions are happening. The younger they are, the more they'll go along with whatever the family does. Then that form of charity will simply be part of how they think about the holidays. It'll become second nature for children growing up with this mindset to see the holiday season as a time to support others in need and not simply a time to get a bunch of toys they'll soon forget.


Choosing a Charity for a Donation

There are a lot of great charities out there, and I can't tell you which is the best. If you don't have a charity to which you regularly donate, this is a great chance to practice feeling what your intuition guides you towards. This below website can help you suss out if the charity is reputable:

Charity Navigator

Obviously there are certain social issues that always need attention like homelessness, domestic abuse, and hunger. Food banks are typically excellent choices to which to donate money, and generally speaking, money is a better donation than food. The food banks can buy healthy fresh food in large quantities because of their buying power. The local food bank here in Northern Nevada says that $1 equals 3 meals. So if you donate $100 to a local food bank, then you've likely helped 300 people.

BTW, how does helping feed 300 hungry people feel compared to getting a $100 DVD player for Christmas?

As for me, I generally like to support the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network as well as the Center for Victims of Torture. If you want to support them, you can go to the links below:

RAINN

CVT

Living Your Spiritual Truth for the Holidays

Ultimately, what I am talking about is living your spiritual truth during the holidays. What we do creates the human society we live in. If we send billions of dollars to Rusty Wickets, LLC to get everyone rusty wickets to play with this holiday season, then that's what we just said was important. It also probably created a lot more waste to make all these wickets, many of which will be thrown out once we get bored with this latest gadget. The piles of trash and waste continue, and ultimately, humanity is not really served.

Living our spiritual truth takes us back to service, and donating money is one form of service. We can donate time, expertise, and lots of other things too for the holiday season and beyond. In so doing, that conscious action re-shapes society. If billions of dollars go into our charities this holiday season, can you imagine what those organizations might be able to do? Could you imagine all the jobs that would suddenly appear in that sector, which would allow more people to make careers out of helping others. As you can see, transforming your approach to the holidays can not only be a beautiful spiritual practice but have a hugely positive impact on society. There are big opportunities here for positive social change, but it all starts with you.

For some more thoughts on the holidays and creating conscious changes, you may enjoy these spiritual blog posts:

Spiritual Awakening and Holidays

Consciously Confronting Hunger

How to Create Conscious Change