01/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Changing the Present

Is anyone else having trouble shopping for the holidays this year? I sure am. I'm finding that I cannot buy things. I'm definitely in the spirit of the season, but things just aren't cutting it. For one, I have too many things myself. For two, I suspect that most everyone I know is in the same boat.

The story of the mad shoppers and the death of the Wal-mart employee stopped me in my shopping tracks. No thing, no matter what it is, is worth a living being. So what's a girl to do?

Enter Changing the Present -- the thought that counts.

I know. It's what my mother always said when some inappropriate gift would arrive from a well-meaning but misguided relative. Except, I know more these days, and it really is the thought that counts. Another way to say this is: thoughts really do count. A lot.

Thought, in the ideology of metaphysics, precedes manifestation. A whole lot of people thought about Barack Obama as president of the United States, and so he is now manifest as President-Elect Obama. Charles Fillmore, one of the co-founders of Unity, was known to say, "Thoughts are things."

And so they are. And Changing the Present is a spin on gift-giving that puts our thoughts for goodness, kindness, warmth, light and caring -- all holiday staples -- to good use. Consider first that a visitor to the site in invited to Choose a Cause. Then look at this remarkable list!

Basic Needs
Disaster Relief
Human Rights
Millennium Goals
Arts & Culture
Children & Youth
Civil Society
Public Broadcast
Animal Welfare
Global Warming
Health and Safety
Blindness & Vision
Global Health
Medical Research
Mental Health
Poverty Alleviation
Social Entrepreneurs

Do you think about the perils of poverty? Choose Poverty Alleviation.
Do you think about animals? Choose Animal Welfare.
Do you think about HIV/AIDS? Choose that.
Do you think about climate change? Choose Global Warming.
Do you think about water shortages? Choose Water.
Do you think about children's needs? Choose Children.

And my favorite: do you think about peace? Choose Peace.

Another way to dance through this changing of the need and use for presents at holiday time is: what do the people on your list think about? Choose the issues that mean something to them.

Fillmore is right, dear one. Thoughts truly are things, more valuable things than most things in themselves.

To change our future, we have to change the present.

Here's one way to give new meaning to the holy-days, and remember Art Buchwald while you're at it:

The best things in life aren't things.