‘Tis The Season…

The Thanksgiving feast is over, the relatives and friends have come and gone, Hanukkah is upon us and Christmas is just around the corner.

Unless you’re careful, you can easily get caught up in the hurricane of shopping, decorating, cooking, baking, and entertaining that passes for observing the holidays these days. And at the end of it all, you may find yourself broke, exhausted and wondering what just happened. Don’t do it!

Rebel against the energy that recently pitted one crazed shopper against another just hours after they nodded their heads in gratitude at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Put away the pepper spray and set a tone of love, kindness and sharing instead. And don’t forget to get your kids involved. This can be a true teaching moment.

Children are, after all, naturally generous, sympathetic creatures but they need us to show them how they can help others. The holidays present a golden opportunity to do so. Whether they are three or 13 there is a multitude of ways to express their love and concern for those less fortunate. Isn’t that really what the Season of Sharing is supposed to be about?

Start a new holiday tradition today: take a look at this list and then talk to your child about how you, as a family, might like to spread some peace and joy of your own. Nothing lifts your spirits faster than helping someone out and there is no better or more valuable gift to give to your child than sharing this experience with them.

1. Just ONE DOLLAR can buy and ship two books to a child in Africa. In many classrooms there, up to 20 children must share just one copy. Go to booksforafrica.org to donate.

2. Just TWO DOLLARS can buy a set of drumsticks for a low income public school child learning to play the drums. Go to littlekidsrock.org to donate.

3. Just THREE DOLLARS can provide the means for a high-risk youth to go on a field trip to a museum, concert or theatrical production. Go to createnow.org to donate.

4. Just FOUR DOLLARS can give an overseas soldier two hours of pre-paid phone time. Imagine what that could mean to a far away mom or dad, son or daughter, during the holidays. This website was started by two teenage siblings in 2004 and has mailed out over 1.5 million cards to our troops since then! Go to cellphonesforsoldiers.com to donate.

5. Just FIVE DOLLARS can give a one-burner stove to a Haitian family who must cook their meals on an open fire. Not only does this stove provide a clean, re-useable and smoke-free method for preparing their food, it also helps to prevent deforestation of this country. Go to foodforthepoor.org to contribute.

6. Just SIX DOLLARS can provide measles vaccinations for 15 children in a developing country. Go to doctorswithoutborders.org to make a donation.

7. Just SEVEN DOLLARS can provide a full week’s worth of food for an abandoned dog or cat. Go to aspca.org to help.

8. Just EIGHT DOLLARS can provide a medical teaching doll to a sick child to help him learn how his cancer treatment works. Go to stjude.org  to help.

9. Just NINE DOLLARS can provide one box of nails to help make a disabled veteran’s house handicap accessible. This organization provides all the materials and does all the work for severely injured veterans for free. Go to homesforourtroops.org to donate.

10. Just TEN DOLLARS can provide a days worth of fresh food and vegetables to feed two orphaned chimpanzees at the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of the Congo. Go to janegoodall.org to donate and learn more.

11. Just ELEVEN DOLLARS will provide the funds to plant 11 trees in  parts of Alabama that were devastated by the April, 2011 tornadoes. Go to arborday.org to lend a hand.

12. Just TWELVE DOLLARS will provide 20 pounds of soap to a poor family somewhere in the world. The ability to keep clean (and help prevent disease) should be a basic right for all but unfortunately it is not. Go to oxfamamericaunwrapped.org to donate.

So there you have it mamas — your own 12 Days of Christmas list. I hope you have been inspired!

For even more ideas on excellent programs that could use your help, check out heifer.org, operationsmile.org,  globalgiving.orgmowaa.org and cradlestocrayons.org. At least one of these awesome organizations is sure to get your (and your children’s) juices flowing.

Of course nothing beats shopping together for a few well-selected toys to bring to Toys for Tots or buying a grocery bag full of food to drop off at the local community center or food pantry. Kids love to do these things with you and most likely will be happy to contribute a few pennies or dollars of their own. So get out there and make it happen!

And may your days be merry and bright!




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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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