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A Fair Christmas

“IT’S NOT FAIR!” If you are a parent, you likely hear this several times a day – everything from dessert sizes to bedtimes are occasions for children to spot real or imagined unfairness.

The truth is, the world isn’t fair – and far too often in ways that matter far more than the size of our slice of cake or the fact that “everybody else” gets to stay up until 10.  It isn’t fair, for instance, that some children work in sweatshops while other children (like mine) go to school. It isn’t fair that huge numbers of people go to bed hungry every night while I try to figure out how to fit all the leftovers into the fridge. It isn’t fair that people work hard for wages that don’t even cover the basics of food and shelter. We all know the world isn’t fair, but can we do anything about it?

YES! No one of us can transform the world, but we can make more informed choices that help make our day-to-day lives conform to our beliefs and values.

It is a bit odd, isn’t it? We celebrate the birth of a peasant child born in a borrowed barn by trying to find the perfect gift for “the person who has everything.” We bombard our already over-STUFFed kids with even more stuff. And we often spend money we don’t have to do so. Now, I love Christmas – even in its goofy secular forms.  I don’t want to be a Scrooge or a Grinch, and I won’t claim that I get through the season without several visits to Target, but here are some ways to make Christmas fairer (and less expensive.)

BUY FROM GROUPS YOU SUPPORT – Shameless plug here – buying a book or a peace dove or other gift item from the BPFNA catalogue will support our work for peace rooted in justice AND spread the word about gospel nonviolence. If you don’t find everything you want from us (!) – think about the other groups you believe in and give a gift that gives twice.

CONSIGNMENT SHOPPING – Buying used goods is not only cheaper, it’s fairer. The proceeds do not go into the pockets of huge companies – and they often benefit great causes. You can find your closest Good Will location throughout the US and Canada by entering your zip or postal code into their Web site. There may be numerous other options in your area as well.  I have found GREAT gifts in good condition at all of these places.

ALTERNATIVE GIFTS – For the person who truly has “everything,” why buy more? There are great ways to give gifts that benefit others. How about a gift membership in the BPFNA or another group that speaks to the recipient’s values? Or maybe a gift certificate that will allow her to make a micro-loan through Kiva? Other great organizations for alternative giving include Heifer International, Habitat for Humanity and Church World Service. With a little thought, you can give an alterative gift that reflects the priorities of everyone on your list. My mother-in-law cried the year that I gave her warm clothes for needy kids.

FAIR TRADE GIFTS – Fairly traded goods guarantee living wages and decent working conditions for the people who make them. Ten Thousand Villages, as one example, offers beautiful fair trade home décor, gifts, jewelry, seasonal decorations and more. Find a store or shop on-line. I always start my Christmas shopping at TTV – and I buy my own Christmas decorations there as well.

THE GIFT OF TIME – One of my all-time favorite gifts was a torn sheet of notebook paper on which my daughter Kate had written “gft certfcte for hugs and kisses.” In our all-too-hurried society, a promise to meet a friend monthly for coffee would be a lovely gesture. Or perhaps you have a skill that you can share such as a gift of sewing or cooking – or, even better, spending time teaching someone to sew or cook.

ALL OF THE ABOVE – If you like the idea of having “something under the tree,” you can do a combination of the ideas above. With a bit of imagination, you can give themed gift combos – My gift to my father this year, for instance, will be a bottle of red wine we bought at Yellowstone National Park along with a donation in his honor to the US National Parks. One year, I gave my husband Tom a donation to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and the promise of a shared hike.

There are LOTS of ways to celebrate Christmas that add joy and fairness to our lives and those of others. I look forward to hearing what you try! If you use any of the ideas here, drop me a line at [email protected] with the subject line Fair Christmas.

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