The Christmas Charity Gift Dilemma
Christmas is a time for giving. But what, and to whom? Many would like Christmas to be less commercial, whilst helping those not as fortunate as themselves. Doing this in a way which shows fondness for family, friends and colleagues but also benefits others can sometimes be a difficult balance to achieve.
The Christmas charity gift brochures these days often start to arrive with the August Bank Holiday. We therefore have plenty of time to ponder the dilemmas which then arise:
(a) Do I buy gifts from these brochures, actual items, to give directly to friends and family? or
(b) Do I buy ‘gifts’ which are actually donations towards items required by needy people elsewhere, often in the developing world – and give my own folk tokens which say that’s what I’ve done, of my own volition, on their behalf? or
(c) Do I give gifts which I have chosen elsewhere and then think about the charitable giving at some other point?
Not comfortable options
Most of these options leave me, at least, feeling rather uncomfortable. Buying charity Christmas cards (or some direct gifts, if genuinely appropriate) is one thing; the recipents still receive the original item. Buying charitable items which are not intended for the ‘recipient’, but for someone who for us is without a name, living elsewhere, is another thing altogether. The big question is, is it alright to give to charity on another’s behalf, without seeing if that’s what they wanted?
And, indeed, is it even OK to ask them if it is actually what they’d like to do? Perhaps, they’re doing it already? Or even, uneasy thought, perhaps they wouldn’t choose to give to the charity we’ve chosen on their unwitting behalf?
Of course, the precise intention of the charities who mail us is to encourage ‘giving’ – and few would deny that such giving is needed.
I do not subscribe to the idea that there is no point; I’m quite sure much of the money raised does indeed go to very good causes.
Nonetheless, is it OK to ‘give’ in the name of someone else? Should we give only what we own ourselves? Is it right to divert gifts from people one knows personally, to people one does not know, whilst also proclaiming a good deed on their behalf?
Many would agree that there is a real sense in which charitable giving does reflect the ‘meaning’ of Christmas. The question then is, how can we do it without seeming to give what is not exactly ours – in other words the gift we would ‘give’ to our nearest and dearest?
I’m beginning to think there may be a way. This ‘solution’ depends on the amount of cash available and the sort of personal contacts one has; it’s not really appropriate, say, for hard-pressed families with children where money is scarce. But for the rest of us it might work.
How about an agreement that, special exceptions apart, we all give direct personal gifts costing no more than an agreed sum – but at the same time we get together to ‘buy’ that much-needed donkey, tree, kids’ trip, hoe, emergency kit or whatever?
It would take someone to make the initial arrangements and act as ‘treasurer’, and maybe each year a different member of the group might undertake that task. But it’s a project which would enable us all to choose something personal for those we know and love, whilst also sharing a goal in a positive group activity, be it as colleagues, family or friends. How much each person can give would be confidential between themselves and the ‘treasurer’ only, but all would have contributed.
Maybe 2006 is the year to set up the rota, even if there’s no time now to try the idea out fully before the festivities begin? And here are some of the many links which will take you to see what’s on offer:
Wish List (Save the Children)
Has anyone tried this way? Does it work? Maybe you could let us know in the Comments box below?