Saturday, December 18, 2010

(Doing Your Part to Actually Bring) Joy to the World

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When I was a kid, I was easily swayed by effective nonprofit marketing. I guess that as a kid, the phrase "effective nonprofit marketing" would have made zero sense, but in retrospect, it's true. I was frequently moved by things like telethons & bell-ringers & commercials about sad animals, & I was thus suckered into donating my allowance, my bat mitzvah money, & the coins I saved in a Tupperware container with a hole cut in the top. "Suckered" is probably a crummy word to use in this regard, but you get it.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions was to buy gifts for The Angel Tree, a program of the Salvation Army (apparently now in partnership with JC Penney); I loved buying Angel Tree gifts more than any of the other holiday gifts I helped my mom shop for. The local mall would display a Christmas tree near the food court, decorated with gift tags that each bore the name of an "angel," a child who needed a little bit of extra assistance around the holiday. The tag included the child's age, Christmas wish list & clothing & shoe size, sometimes noting a favorite color or cartoon character. You'd choose an angel's name from the tree - I always picked them based on how much I liked their names and/or how good their taste in gifts was (I liked the kids who were desirous of books & board games because I was a big nerd) - & then buy them a gift or two that the Salvation Army would deliver before Christmas.

I wanted to buy gifts for all the angels, but of course, that was never possible. I wanted every angel to get the best things on their holiday lists, but somehow, knew that wasn't possible, either. I always knew that the kids who quite hopefully listed things like "Purple bike" & "Nintendo" were more likely to end up with Barbies & sweaters & packages of socks. I rarely got big-ticket items for the holidays, either, but I was living in a house with two loving parents, & I had a warm, cozy bed, & my clothes were nice & fit well, & I knew that there would be no shortage of holiday cheer at my house & in my life. I often wondered who those "angels" really were & what their lives were like - where they were living, & if they got to have Christmas trees, & if there would be any gifts at all if they were among the children whose names were not plucked from the tree at the mall by eager & fortunate kids like me.

I haven't done the Angel Tree in awhile. In fact, I'd forgotten about it until recently, & the JC Penney site tells me it's too late to buy Angel Tree gifts this year. But the sentiment still stands. This Christmas, while you're wishing for Kate Spade planners & sparkly cocktail rings & J Crew peacoats & new Wiis, little kids all across the damn planet have placed their hope in the big guy in the red suit, hoping he'll bring them some small bit of holiday joy. For that matter, there are plenty of adults who are hoping the same. At a time when so many need so much, ask yourself what you can do to make the season a little brighter for those who aren't as well-off as you are - because frankly, if you're reading this post, chances are that there are plenty of people who are worse-off than you, even if you're feeling the effects of the bad economy, too. (Aren't we all?)

I don't celebrate Christmas in the traditional tree/tinsel/lights/church way, but that doesn't mean I don't value the spirit of the season. Have you thought about how to spread joy this year? Go find an angel & pay it forward.

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7 comments:

suki said...

:) This post made me all warm and fuzzy!

Nadine-Adele said...

This was a great post! It made me really think about all those people who have nothing at christmas! I'm definately going to try and make an effort to bring joy into the lives of people less fortunate than me :)

Kristin & Megan said...

We're going to take a load to a local ministry that provides food and presents for needy families!

Nora_L said...

We have done a lot of stuff at our house to help pay it forward; my gram did the angel program & Samaritan's purse. I got my office to collect money for a local newborn charity, and I give to the Salvation Army dude each time I see them. I wish I could do more. Sometimes I just don't know where to begin, you know?

Hermia said...

That's such a great idea...we don't have that in Ireland. We do present drives, of course, but it's usually a Buy A Random Toy thing! I'd love to have someone specific to buy for...makes it more personal!

terra said...

All those programs that give gifts to kids are amazing! I was a recipient of those gifts a few years growing up when my single mom couldn't find a job and we lived in a creepy log cabin in the woods. A single gift from a stranger absolutely makes a difference.

Hannah Katy said...

This post really made me smile.. I loved everything about.. I spent Christmas (or at least the few days before) at a homeless shelter for women and children and an immigration center in the Bronx. It was great!

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