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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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