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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Give a Damn, Give a Goat

Does the commercialized mania of Christmas get your goat?  Are you tired of pigging out at Christmas parties?  Do you duck out of shopping sprees?  Do you wish you could chicken out of climbing that roof one more time to string yet another row of lights around the eaves?

Then maybe it's time to rethink your whole approach to the holiday season.  Historians tell us that the custom of giving Christmas gifts arose in imitation of the Magi who brought gifts to the infant Jesus - albeit they arrived a good while after he had outgrown the manger, contrary to the popular depiction; go read your Bible and see.

Yet the Magi were not giving gifts to each other, but rather offering them to the manifestation of God made flesh; at least such is the Christian interpretation of the story.  But whether you are preparing to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwaanza, Solstice, or something else, or nothing at all - is it not true that "it is better to give than to receive"?

Instead of loading your nearest and dearest down with a lot of expensive crap that they really don't need, please think about making a gift to someone you will never see, but who will benefit from your small act of generosity in many ways for years and years to come.

Give a goat - for only 80 bucks, the price of a movie and dinner at a nice restaurant for two, you can provide a family in Africa or elsewhere with a source of milk, cheese, and even manure for farming.  Or for a hundred bucks, a pig; or if you can't squeeze that into your budget, how about a duck or a chicken? 

These and many other life-sustaining, life-saving gifts are available through the Gifts for Life Catalog at Episcopal Relief and Development, formerly the Presiding Bishop's Fund of the Episcopal Church.  ERD has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the highest rating that organization bestows; you can see a breakdown of ERD's revenues, expenses, and operational efficiency here.  Of course, ERD is just one of many fine outfits that do much good work in the world; you can review others at Charity Navigator as well.

I well recall watching Mother Teresa's funeral over in India in 1997; and I was struck by the fact that, as one high leader after another of India's many religions took a turn at eulogizing her - they expressed their thoughts in different words, of course, but one and all said essentially the very same thing:  "This woman, though she was not of our faith, lived up to the highest precepts of our belief - that to treat others as you would want to be treated, to care deeply and work steadfastly for the good of those who cannot help themselves, is the noblest path of human life, and the most sublime service to God."

We are so very rich in this country, and we take it for granted most of the time.  Nowadays, even the poor people in America, I would say perhaps 90 percent of them or more, have electricity, running water, including hot water, a refrigerator, a microwave, a color television, even central heat and air, many of them - and closets full of clothes.  Which is not to say that poverty is not a concern to be taken seriously - after all, it's no good having all these conveniences if you can't pay the light bill - and your Head Trucker in his time has seen many days like that - but the point is, the vast majority of us have no idea what true poverty is.

My own little grandmother was born in a two-room log cabin with dirt floors, way to hell back in the woods.  When she was married and my grandfather went off to seek work in the city, she plowed the fields herself with a team of oxen, and filled the crib with so much corn, they had to knock the roof off.  Until the children were grown, she used to do all the family laundry in a cauldron of boiling water out in the yard, scrubbing the clothes on a scrubboard until her knuckles bled.  Yet now I, her grandson, live in comfort at 70 degrees year round, and I get pissed because I have to carry my wet laundry from the washer out to the garage, where the dryer is - until I think of all that Grandma had to do, and did do for eight decades, and I feel ashamed of myself.

Yet millions and millions of folks around the world live on less than a thousand dollars a year, without electricity, without running water, without even windows or doors.  And you're going to be pissed if Santa doesn't bring you exactly the right pair of Gap jeans?  Please, Mary - think about someone besides your fabulous self for a moment.  Whether you are religious or not, give a damn, give a goat - or whatever you can afford - not to yourself, and not to somebody who will pay you back with a present in return. 

But give it to somebody who can never, ever repay you - offer it to whatever your concept is of the Ultimate Good in the universe - which we mortals can only ever see clearly when we look into the face of another human being:  a spark of God made manifest in flesh.

Happy holidays.

1 comment:

Ultra Dave said...

I receive their catalog as well. It does make one think doesn't it? Great post Russ!

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