Each year, the gifts I have to spend time really contemplating, are those that I send to people I don’t know. Family is easy. Children are quick to hand you lists. Your spouse and close relatives are around enough that you know their personal interests, needs or desires too. But strangers. Well, that takes some thinking.
When I had a business and I could slip a donation into the budget, I always sent a cow for Christmas to someone from a third world country. I have a special affinity for Heifer Corp, because it doesn’t send food to starving people. It sends the means to correct the problem of starvation. Self-sufficiency is the greatest gift you can bestow, in my opinion. It gives people so much more than a finite thing like a box of food -it offers a chance to restore pride, security, and a future. But a cow is a big-ticket item and when my donations had to come from our now limited household budget, I had to scale back a bit. Actually, it was always a bit of an issue when I sent the cow from the business, because we operated under a very tight budget, and my Dad, our financial manager, would always throw up his hands and say, “You bought another cow? Stop trying to save the world with livestock!” He would harass me for it endlessly, but that never deterred me. I bought cows. Everyone accepted that as one of those quirks in my personality.
Anyway, last year, for Christmas, I sent a goat instead of a cow because that was something we could afford. I had purchased a pet goat for our own family, so I thought it would be nice to imagine a goat in someone’s yard a half a world away. Little did I know then how annoying our goat would be. I can only hope that my goat gift fit the family that received it more than a goat fit ours.
What would be meaningful this year? I could have sent a llama for $120, which is in the range of what I spend, but llamas are used as pack animals, and while I know they enhance the recipient’s life, somehow that doesn’t seem as vital as animals that nourish a family. So, this year, I sent a flock of chickens. This way, when I visit our chickens each day, I will be reminded of those less fortunate, whom, hopefully, are living a slightly better life because of my gift. Then, since a flock of chickens are only 20 dollars (about the same as they are in America – go figure) I bought a tree. Now I know a tree isn’t something you can eat, and it is sort of a weird gift. And expensive. A tree planted in a dry third world country (to help soil erosion and to bring life to ravaged soil) is 60 dollars. But as I thought of all the trees Mark brought down and burned in this half of the world, I thought it appropriate to replace at least one on this earth in a place where it is really needed. I certainly have enough trees surrounding me to remind me of the tree far away that is shading someone needy because of us, holding the earth in place and inviting worms to join it to begin the long slow process of healing the land. I had a remaining 20.00 to spend, so I allocated that to a share of a llama for a needy family. I guess I just bought the ears or something. Nevertheless, I will look at Dalai and think of my part in sending a pair of llama ears half a world away too. In my small way, I’ve made a dent in the problems of the world. Wish it could be more.
I sent money to my new friend, Meaza, in Ethiopia too. Lord, I hope that makes her smile. Her sad little picture drives me crazy. I’ve yet to write her a greeting. Perhaps I’ll do that today. I’ll send her pictures of our family with our animals. She can relate to that. Um.. I’ll skip our tree pictures. Might shock her considering the ugly American extravagance. I think of that a lot, you know – the discrepancies with human existence. It’s a disturbing reality.
Anyway, those were a few of my gifts for strangers. There were others, but nothing interesting enough to mention. I made something for a few of our ex-students, those that have shown independence and an endearing respect for us, but I won’t mention it because they may not have opened the package yet. In fact, two haven’t been sent ,so I know they aren’t opened. It was just a token. Wish I could send a thousand of those. . . so many children (of several generations) that I love and miss, remembered with such fondness . . .they are all still dancing in my heart.
I have to go. I am making soup. The cold is finally creeping in . . .