Remember when there was more stress on the receiving end of presents--how will I find time to play with all of these toys--than on the giving end? Unfortunately, those days are gone; as an adult, a big chunk of holiday tension comes from figuring out what gifts to give. Sure, there's the run-of-the-mill sweater for mom, tie for dad, and gift certificate for Uncle Gerry (who is always difficult to shop for). But what do these gifts really say other than, I couldn't think of anything else to get you?
Luckily there is a positive trend in gift giving that may be just the right cure for holiday-shopping anxiety. I first noticed the upward movement at a wedding two summers ago. In lieu of little gifts for each guest, the bride and groom left a note on every table saying they had donated money to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund--a charity set up in honor of the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting (the fund has since closed). Reading that touched my heart and affected me more than any sweet-smelling bottle of lotion or fountain pen with the wedding date emblazoned on it would have.
Since then, similar gestures keep popping up. I've seen philanthropy-inspired gifts given at other weddings and birthdays, and the practice is appropriately making its way into the holiday season. The universal theme that circles around every December--regardless of one's religion or spiritual practice--is to put others before yourself. And what better way to do that than to give gifts to the people you love that benefit the people you know need help? Charity gifts tug the heartstrings. You can't always hold them, but you can feel them, which means they stand a chance of living in your memory longer.
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