Holiday Gifts To The Givers

December 22, 2011

I’ve given up sending “thing gifts” to my brothers and their families. As I said last year, they’re well enough off to buy what they want — or at least, to buy what they want that I could afford.

For awhile, I sent things they wouldn’t know they wanted. But I knew this was a crapshoot — as would anyone who’d gotten some of the gifts I have. (No, brothers and sisters-in-law, I’m not referring to yours.)

About five years ago, I decided to instead donate in my family’s names to nonprofits whose work means a lot to me. And now, like other last-minute shoppers, I’ve got to choose.

My e-mail box has been full of holiday appeals from nonprofits whose mailing lists I’ve gotten onto in various ways. So all I need to do is click. But for which?

On the one hand, I feel impoverished. There’s no way I could give to all the nonprofits that I know are doing worthy work in this world.

On the other hand, the plethora of choices makes me feel rich — not, of course, monetarily, but in hope. And, frankly, that’s a commodity I need these days.

I’m continually buoyed up by the sheer number of organizations that are addressing the critical needs of low-income people here in the U.S. — as direct service providers, advocates and both.

I’m buoyed up by how they stay buoyed up enough to keep at it. So many dreadful personal situations the service providers encounter every day. So many defeats on so many policy fronts.

And I’m buoyed up when these organizations work together — both through formal coalitions and through linkages formed for some specific cause. I’ve seen these collaborations overcome high odds.

We’ve got networks stretching across the country — and within some states and cities as well. They can — and do — reach out to engage communities most directly affected by the policies we have and might have, for better or worse.

There’s a wealth of energy, compassion, intelligence and just plain true grit in these organizations and the struggling people they represent. I’m constantly impressed by what they do — and how much they do with what are in many cases quite limited resources.

So as I mull over my gift list, I think how the people who staff and volunteer for these organizations are giving every day. And how they are a gift to us all and to me personally.

Because they’re inspiration and a ray of hope in what we all, I think, agree are very difficult times.


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