Two years ago, my son Jordan -- a freshman in high school at the time -- launched a chain of events that transformed an entire village half a world away. It also transformed the way our family gives during the holidays.
Jordan's assignment for one of his classes was to give a brief presentation about how the lack of clean water impacts poor communities -- causing sickness, loss of productivity and income, and perpetuating poverty. He explained to his fellow students that nearly 1 billion people live without access to clean drinking water. Women in developing countries walk for hours each day to collect water for their families. That water often makes their children sick.
At the end of his presentation Jordan challenged his fellow classmates and their families to spend some of their Christmas money that year on someone else -- someone in desperate need.
I was so proud of my son for his boldness. It got me to thinking about our family's giving habits during the holidays. My son's challenge to his classmates was challenging me.
So I sent a letter to our extended family suggesting that, as a family, maybe we could take him up on his challenge ourselves. I wrote:
In a real sense, the lack of clean water is drowning people in a cycle of extreme poverty that continues from generation to generation. That is, until someone steps in to help break that cycle. That's what I'm suggesting the Robisons, Herringtons, Hansons and Lambs do this Christmas. Break the cycle of poverty for one village.
With the help of World Concern, we chose a remote community in Somalia. For generations the people of the village had been forced to rely on a filthy, disease-infested pond as their only source of water. If, as a family, we could generate a few thousand dollars for a fresh-water well, that entire village could be transformed.
The response was amazing. Every member of our family -- young and old -- caught the vision. By Christmas Eve we had raised the funds for a new well brimming with fresh, clean water. We even had a few dollars extra to buy some chickens and other livestock for the people of the village.
The best part of our little family project was witnessing the transformation of a village on the other side of the globe, and knowing our gift would impact future generations. The bonus was, it changed our family as well. Four generations of our family participated. And our holidays will never be the same.
My daughter Jennifer told me, "[You] did a great job of teaching us there are lots of people who have less than us. We have enough stuff. We really wanted to do something for someone else." It's humbling to see your own children willingly forego receiving gifts in order to help others.
May I suggest that in this season of giving you take a bold but simple step? What if you took just 10 or 20 percent of what you would normally spend this season and give it to others in need? #GivingTuesday is a great opportunity to do this as we kick off the giving season. Many charities will match gifts on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
The holiday gifts and trappings your family would have bought with that money will hardly be missed, but the gift you provide for someone in need will mean the world to them. And the transformation in your own family may just make this holiday season your best ever.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the NGO alliance InterAction in celebration of #GivingTuesday, which will take place this year (2013) on December 3. The idea behind #GivingTuesday is to kickoff the holiday-giving season, in the same way that Black Friday and CyberMonday kickoff the holiday-shopping season. We'll be featuring posts from InterAction partners all month in November. To see all the posts in the series, visit here; follow the conversation via #GivingTuesday and learn more here. For more information about InterAction, visit here. To see whatWorld Concern is doing for #GivingTuesday, click here.
And if you'd like to share your own #GivingTuesday story, please send us your 500-850-word post firstname.lastname@example.org