Instead of holiday stress, how about another focus? Giving.

It’s a crazy time of year. I don’t know how it is that I think we can manage to add in extra social events, baking and other creative activities, shopping for gifts that are meaningful and not just packages to wrap and at the same time maintain balance. What’s balanced about any of this?

Sometimes there really is just too much of a good thing.

An idiom for this time of year is “An embarrassment of riches.”  It’s clear to me, ABUNDANTLY clear to me, that I have everything I need. Yet by the end of December, I will have more.

I once taught Sunday School to a room full of wriggly three-year olds. When I think about abundance I often recall the lead teacher sitting in her chair in front of the little faces and calling volunteers to come up and stand beside her to recite a Bible verse or phrase. One very elementary concept passed on to preschoolers was to “Share what you have.”

Just that simple. Share. And I think of that often, frequently inspired by the selflessness of others.

Last week I was harping on outrageous behaviors I found appalling. I promised that I wasn’t going to continue focusing on circumstances that don’t uplift, but instead share about people I find spread encouragement and hope.

So I’m sharing a few that inspire me.

I first learned about Bruno Serato and Caterina’s Club through my favorite morning radio show. KFI-AM hosts a yearly fundraiser to support this wonderful charity.

Bruno is owner of the Anaheim White House Restaurant. Bruno and his mother, Caterina, were aware of the “motel children” in the area. More than 2,000 children live in motels in Anaheim, very close to the fantasy world of Disneyland. Many of these children spend their after school hours at the local Boys & Girls Club, then return to a motel room with their families and not enough food to eat. Caterina encouraged Bruno to begin feeding the children, and Caterina’s Club now feeds thousands of meals a year to hungry boys and girls.

Bruno was one of the finalists in CNN’s Heroes 2011-”Everyday People Changing the World.”

KFI-AM’s 16-hour fundraiser at the Anaheim White House restaurant collected $135,781 this year and more than 10,000 pounds of pasta and sauce. My very small donation is part of that large sum…every little bit counts. Bruno is one “ordinary” man doing extraordinary things.

Then there are the super stars.

Kobe Bryant is a big deal in Los Angeles. If you follow basketball you know his name, or notoriety, I’m quite sure. He has a bad boy reputation that is impossible to ignore. But Kobe is doing good things, too.

Kobe has committed himself to the issue of homelessness, with particular emphasis on Los Angeles. To read more, including a brief video, click HERE.  I think you might enjoy the video, but I also want to call your attention to the website, takepart.com

Take Part dot com is a source for reading socially relevant news, opinion and information, intended to inspire people to find ways to join others and contribute. It’s partnered with leading organizations and  people committed to making a difference in hundreds of ways. Videos, news clips and celebrity interviews make it interesting, lively and interactive. Topics include food, environment, wildlife, social justice, education, health and culture. Bottom line for me? It’s cool.

Then I was on a walk this week and marveled at a neighbor’s generous and creative way to collect toys for “Spark of Love,” an ABC7 and Southern California Firefighters annual toy drive collecting for children and teens in five large Southern California counties.

Spark of Love

I was impressed, and I’ll be there with my unwrapped gift. I like Santa, too, you know.

And I have a tradition I’d like to share.

World Ark

Are you familiar with Heifer, International? Heifer is a global nonprofit dedicated to ending poverty and hunger in a sustainable way. Operating since 1944, the organization gives out gifts of livestock, seeds and trees in more than 125 countries around the world.

When Sophia turned three I took the catalogue to show her and did my best to tell her about how selecting one of the animals to send to a family in another country would provide milk or wool for food and clothing. I avoided the word “meat.” We are city-dwellers, after all.

That year in her first preschool experience she’d dictated for the Thanksgiving bulletin board, “I am thankful for pigs.” We don’t know why. But I jumped on the chance to suggest we give a baby pig to a family. She was barely three and fortunately did not question the “milk or wool” connection.

She did later tell her parents that we had bought a pet for children in other countries who don’t have pets.

Then last year the animal of choice was a lamb. That was relatively easy. Sophia and Karina have never eaten lamb, but they have seen sheep shorn at the Los Angeles County Fair. Again, we are city dwellers.

So this year Karina is helping make decisions. I took the catalogue to their home this week and we went through each page. It’s harder now that we have competing ideas and my budget requires consensus.

We solved that with an accumulation of smaller donations.

I suppose that I’m not doing my part in teaching the girls about how this program actually works, but I’m not going to be the one to tell them that bunnies are food. I wonder what they are really thinking when we purchase a “gift of rabbits.” I think if questioned we’ll focus on the manure produced for organic gardening. They have helped us clean Pinky’s cage many times.

And they want to send Chicks. A “gift of chicks” is only $20.00 to Heifer International, and yet a starter flock of chicks is a gift of abundance. A good hen can lay more than 200 eggs a year. $20.00!

Their final choice was “a gift of honeybees.” They were concerned that the bees would sting the recipient, but they were fascinated with the whole idea of bees being that important. $30 purchases the “bee package” which includes the box, hive and training in the latest beekeeping techniques. The bees will pollinate the crops on a family’s farm, potentially doubling fruit and vegetable yields, as well as increasing a family’s income through the sale of honey, wax and pollen.

I know the girls don’t completely understand the concept of what we are doing. After quite a bit of explanation I still had to repeat that “No, they won’t have to fit in our car because…”–but we’re building on something here. You can teach a child to be compassionate. You must teach a child to think about others. We really are born into the world thinking we are the center of it all.

And this holiday season, I focus a lot of attention on MY family, MY friends, MY-self. But it’s important to think a little outside of that small number. And to “share what I have.” Even in small gifts of bees and chicks.

Isn’t it nice to focus on something positive?

And it’s Friday…are you ready for your exhale?

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59 thoughts on “Instead of holiday stress, how about another focus? Giving.

    • I wonder if we all can’t do just a little bit more…yet the point, I think, is being aware and resourceful. Sometimes we are able to do more than at other times. One thing for sure is that if I wasted less, I’d have more to give. That does weigh heavily on my mind! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  1. I so agree with you, Debra, and thank you for writing a great post highlighting worthwhile charities.
    I no longer send poinsettias or flowers of any kind for the Holidays. OxFam is my charity of choice and I send them the flower money. The “flower people” are all Grandmothers and are happy to give up a plant for some little ones. “We” send some kids, fully outfitted, to school for the coming year and make sure they have full tummies, too. Everybody wins!

    • John, I am so glad you shared about the “flower people” connected to OxFam. Wow! I am always impressed with what I hear coming through OxFam. I must look into this…you kind of got me with the “grandmothers and kids” connection. There are wonderful organizations and dedicated people doing such tremendous work around the year. I really hope to keep my sights and attention focused on that and not to let myself be dragged down by a focus on “lack.” Thank you so much for sharing your charity of choice! I just love learning what others find as near and dear to them! :-)

    • Thank you, Tilly. I do want my granddaughters to remember me as someone who helped instill the importance of generosity into their consciousness. They are learning! I wish I could have made a voice recording of the conversation between us as we were looking in the catalog. They were so funny. They are only three and five. Each year we’ll make a few more strides in our understanding! :-)

  2. May this sentiment and inspiration continue all year round! One thing our local charities and open door centers always say is that they have plenty of donations and help around the holidays, but then everyone disappears for the next 10 months. It’s so important not to forget that these places always need our help. Have a light weekend, Debra! :)

    • I think that’s right! It is the “season” for giving, but the needs don’t go away the rest of the year. I was challenged by the story of Bruno Serato because I give every year in conjunction with the radio fundraising event, but Bruno always reminds “us” that he still needs customers at his restaurant in order to make enough profit to continue to buy the supplies for the children. There are many things pulling at us for time and attention but I do feel challenged to pay attention to the small things I really can do! I know that you’re very much the same, as I think most of us are at heart. It’s nice to confirm that, as well as continue to encourage each other! Have a safe and “calm” weekend, my friend! :-)

  3. Debra, I love that this has become a tradition for you and your granddaughters. You are teaching them to be giving adults. You don’t have to explain the ins and outs of it all to do that.

    Our Rotary Bike Drive is next week, and I’m excited that we’ll be giving bikes to needy kids whose parents can’t afford to buy them one for Christmas. It is always a joy to watch the sea of bikes accumulate on the Tuesday morning of our bike drive.

    • The Rotary is such an excellent example of continual focus on doing and giving on behalf of others, Andra. I really admire the work you do. It takes a commitment with coupled with lots of time! I really would love to see you take pictures of the bike drive if you can. I know it can get tricky when taking photos that may have children in the crowd. I do know how thrilling that will be for not just the boys and girls receiving the bikes, but also for everyone who contributed! :-)

  4. What wonderful lessons you are teaching your grandchildren and what a great example for the rest of us. It breaks my heart to think of children in this country going hungry. You are an inspiration, a resource, and a very caring woman.

    • Thank you so much for your kind comment, Inger. It is beyond the pale that children are hungry in this country of “super-size” and waste. But I admire those that don’t sit around lamenting the condition and instead do what they can to be a help. My own grandmother was very instrumental in teaching me, by her own actions, how to think of others, and I want my legacy to be similar with my own little gals. I’m so glad you stopped by today, and I hope you’re having a very nice weekend! oxo

  5. We tend to focus our Season of Goodwill giving towards those who do not ask for any help, but carry on doing what they can. They are the most deserving, I would say?
    Of course, good animal welfare societies are also a top priority.

    • I like the term “Season of Goodwill.” I agree with you, about those who do not ask for help. I think that’s why the charities that focus on children grab my heart. I don’t have as much of a natural inclination to support the animal welfare societies, not because they aren’t worthy, I just haven’t landed on that with focus. But I have made contributions to honor friends who have passionate animal welfare interests. It’s all about just being aware and doing what you can, don’t you think? Thank you for stopping by, and I appreciate your thoughtful comment.

  6. I can’t emphasize enough the power in your message. I know it’s been too long since I’ve posted something like this, but this is great. The evening news can be such a downer, but sometimes, their last story of the day is about people like Bruno – and those stories are great! In other words, simply THANK YOU for making my Friday!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the story of Bruno Serato, Frank. This man has amazed me ever since I learned of his work with Caterina’s Club. He literally took a look around and decided there was something he could do to make the lives of some local children better. I’m sure when he first started with a few meals it never occurred to him that he would do so much more. I love people like that! :-) And it is inspiring. I’m glad I could share about him, but I know there are thousands of people around the world doing similarly unselfish acts. Wouldn’t it be nice if we heard more about them on the nightly news? Thank you Frank…and have a great weekend. (No leaves :-) )

      • No leaves indeed … but very wet! I foresee a 10-min (max) raking of a few leftovers early next week … but that is actually a nonevent. … and thanks for more scoop about Bruno … and the fact that he’s a CNN Hero speaks volumes about his effort.

    • The beauty of giving back is just being aware, I think. Most of us have situations right under our noses that could use a little assistance. I tend to look for the simple things I can do, and support others who are really committed to larger projects. I did enjoy sharing about some of the people who inspire me! Thank you for stopping by and sharing, too! :-)

    • I got started teaching in Sunday School when my son turned three, Kate. He wouldn’t let me leave! I continued for years after he was well-grown, but I have never forgotten that time when these little children were taught the importance of sharing whatever it was they had. And it’s funny how that concept really did stick in my adult brain! I love stories of people who don’t go far from home, but look around and see what they can do in their little spheres of influence. Other people really do inspire me, and it was fun to share these few with you! :-)

    • I’m glad you enjoyed a little positive uplift from the stories of some really incredibly generous people, Claire. In particular, the story of Bruno Serato is just amazing. I couldn’t go into all the detail of what he does for the children in his neighborhood, but it is nothing short of amazing. :-)

  7. It is, indeed, nice to think of the positive, Debra. I’m familiar with Heifer International and applaud your local efforts. When our daughter Katy got married, she and her Tom (as opposed to my Tom) opted to use the money they would have spent on table favors to a charitable organization. Each table was a donation. Heifer International was one of the organizations.

    This such a meaningful post, Debra, leaving much food for thought. Thank you.

    • Penny, I am just so impressed with your Katy! Her actions during a time when most brides are tremendously self-focused really tells me something about her–it tells me that I’d like her a lot! :-) I have a feeling they are a really lovely couple! I’m glad you shared about that action…if I ever have a chance to guide another bride, I’d love to make this suggestion! :-)

      • Thank you, Debra. They are a lovely couple and their gentle giving has already made an impression on our Kezzie. I hope you get to suggest this to some bride or groom some time. Our two girls were married in the same calendar year. Phew!

  8. Wonderful post! We do have abundance and must share! I had never heard of Heifer Int’l until my son’s business club did a fundraiser for them. Amazing. There is joy in giving….I am joining you, friend ♥

  9. It’s great, Debra, that you inspired so many people to think about sharing at this time of the year. If you share some time with someone who feels lonely, does this count as sharing?

    • I abslutely believe that spending time with someone can be considered a very giving act. Let’s face it! For most of us “time” is more precious to us than our funds! I am really in favor of not making a big splash with BIG things, but doing the small, considerate gestures that take into consideration sharing what we have to give. Whether it be time and friendship, or a charitable financial donation. Very good point, Uta! oxo

    • I really enjoy hearing what others do, too, to feel engaged and connected to community support, Jim. There are a lot of people committed to good causes and serving the needs of people. I just wish the media would always highlight those good services…instead of always being so cynical. Of course, cynicism sells a little better…oh well! :-)

  10. Dear Debra, Heifer, International is one of my favorite places to donate because it so helps women, especially, to set up a business by having hens and selling eggs to support the family.

    This year, my brother, who’s 73 told me he wanted no Christmas gifts because he has everything thing he needs and wants. So I asked him if I might give a gift in his name. He liked the idea. The Southwest Indian Foundation provided me with the opportunity to give a gift basket of food to a Navaho family in my brother’s name. The basket contains food for Christmas as well as stapes–flour, sugar, potatoes, baking soda, etc–that will last beyond Christmas day. (www.southwestindian.com)

    What you are doing for your grandchildren in helping them become compassionate human beings is wonderful. You are giving them a gift that will warm them in hard times. Peace.

    • Thank you for making me aware of the Southwest Indian Foundation, Dee. That really sounds like an organization I’d be interested in adding to the list of those I follow closely. There are so many outstanding places where we can become engaged, even on a limited basis. I think the idea of senind a food basket in honor of your brother is just a wonderful idea. I have someone in mind for whom that would be so applicable! Thank you for the suggestion! oxo

  11. Debra this is such a heart-warming and important post, not least as an antidote to the “get, get, get” which is too often the reverse of the “give, give, give of the season. Supporting any of these good causes is pure gift and a way of being thankful for our own good fortune and security. We have similar charities in the UK and I particularly like Send A Cow, which is the British counterpart of your Heifer, International.

    • I am going to look at “Send a Cow” on the internet, Perpetua. I would really like to start a little list of some of the suggestions/ideas that people have shared. I love the idea of practical considerations in giving people gifts that are sustainable and add to their overall future health and well-being. Just the name, “Send a Cow,” delights me!

    • There are so many wonderful organizations and charities, aren’t there, Meg? I get so excited by everything I hear about…I wish I could be a part of them all! :-) But the point I’m trying to make is that we just need to be aware and do what we can…sometimes even small gestures make a very significant impact! Have a great week, Meg!

    • I’m really glad you sent the link to your post about Gifts of Hope, Nancy. I really love that one. I’m not familiar with it! There are so many wonderful organizations, and I like knowing about different opportunities for giving. Sometimes giving a charitable gift in honor of someone else is best served with one that I haven’t previously accessed. This is great. I am going to compile a list of those that have been suggested through responses to my post and share them as one list. Thank you!

  12. I think this is an absolutely wonderful thing you do with your grandchildren Debra. Even if they don’t full understand the concept, I have no doubt the act of giving will be instilled. It’s just beautiful. You’ve inspired me tonight. I think we’re going to find a way to give back tomorrow with the kids. :)

    • I hope you find something that really fits the interests of your children, Kristy, and then can follow-through with a new tradition where they can feel they are participating in a special giving project. I shared Heifer because some of those “gifts of bees…chicks…ducks…” are so very inexpensive. I do know how challenging it can be to balance everything when you’re raising a young family. I’m going to compile a list of the charities and foundations that others have suggested and share it soon. If you find something interesting to you, do let me know! :-)

  13. I did not know about Heifer, International. It is wonderful! It is also wonderful what you are doing with your grandchildren. I went to the shopping mall this week to get a Christmas gift, and I wasn’t happy to be there. I found it too commercial, but… what else can I expect in a shopping mall. I don’t plan to go back anytime soon.

    • Marie, shopping malls get to me, too! But I’m a sucker for the “glitz and glitter,” too. Particularly if they’re piping in good holiday music. LOL! I’d love to claim that I don’t do anything at the Christmas season that isn’t overly commercial, but I’m just as taken in as most everyone else. But I try to balance the impulsivity, make meaningful choices that don’t reflect the latest trinket, and to at least be very aware of the needs around me. I’m sure I am a work in progress! :-) But a busy, noisy mall…yes, I try to avoid that. I get easily overwhelmed in those environments! Have a great week, Marie. i hope you can keep warm!

  14. Thanks for your positive thoughts. And I totally agree with you. Particularly in these times it would be nice to think beyond the close family and our own narrow lives. Where and how may we be able to help people that could need a little help? Isn’t that Christmas is really about?

    • Thank you, Otto, for affirming that Christmas is about giving, and then to be conscious of giving to those who really could use a hand. I have enjoyed hearing what others are doing. There are some wonderful organizations and philanthropic activities that continue to spread encouragement, without fanfare or widespread publicity. :-)

    • Thank youf ro stopping by and adding your voice of positivity to the idea that we can be a support to others this time of year, CCU. I have enjoyed hearing from others and being reminded how generous and giving the blogging community is! :-)

  15. Such a great post Debra, very inspiring and something we can all do. Just a little means a lot to someone in need, and it’s great to see such love and giving in your grandchildren. l love the Heifer, International idea :-)

    • Thank you, Eleenie. I am glad you acknowledge that it’s the little efforts that make a difference! If everyone could be inspired to give small contributions it would add up and make such a difference! I hope you are doing well. It’s good to see you back on-line! :-)

  16. Pingback: Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 166 « A Frank Angle

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