Image via WikipediaAn economy in shambles, employment declines at levels not seen in a generation, major corporations on the brink of collapse - its no wonder that we are an anxious people. However, hard times are opportunities for us to consider those things that are of ultimate value in our lives. What is it that really counts?
I watched Its a Wonderful Life for the first time the other night (hard to believe that I hadn't seen it before). George Bailey learned through his own personal crisis what really mattered to him and it changed the way that he viewed his life. The externals of his life didn't change. The change occurred within him. We cannot always change the realities of the world that affect our lives. However, we can open ourselves to internal transformation.
One way to do that is to think about others. I know, its ironic that internal transformation often comes from focusing on the needs and longings not of ourselves but of others. There are many people in our world who face tremendous struggles, who fight just to put food on the table and to take care of the medical needs of their families. As we open our hearts to internal transformation, we might feel compelled to do something tangible to help one or more of these people. Many charities offer opportunities to give targeted financial donations in honor of someone special. Instead of giving dad another tie, why not make a donation that will make a real difference. I bet dad would be thrilled. You can even do this for children (you might need to give them an iPod as well:)) Use it as a learning experience, focusing on the human dimension of the gift, particularly if the gift targets children. Check out your favorite charity's website and see if they have a program that will allow you to do this.
I came across one such program this week. The mission of the Grameen Foundation is "to enable the poor, especially the poorest, to create a world without poverty." The key word in this mission statement is "enable." The goal is to equip people to take care of themselves by providing microfinancing that enables poor people in developing countries to start their own small businesses. These small business owners then are not dependent on the charity of others but can move to self-sufficiency. That, in turn, leads to sustainable growth that can lift entire families, even whole villages out of poverty. Can you think of a greater gift than that?
The Grameen Foundation offers an online gift catalog. Here is a sample of what your gift can do:
- With a loan of $50, a woman could buy thread & fabric for her embroidery business and send her children to school.
- With a loan of $100, a poor woman could rebuild her business after a natural disaster and give her children a brighter future.
- With a loan of $250, a woman could connect her village to the world by creating a mobile technology hub.
- With a loan of $450, a woman could add a freezer to her store, giving her community a convenient place to buy meat and fish.
- With a microloan of $550, a woman could buy a rickshaw and other assets to launch several businesses.
- Your funding of a scholarship enables a child to attend public school for five years.
Celebrate Christmas this year by giving a gift that will transform both you as the giver and the recipient, whose life might well be changed forever.