scholars and rogues

Holiday gifts that make a difference:

It’s that time of year again. Yes, I’m talking about holiday season, when we all join together and recreate the timeless materialistic ritual of shopping. Some of us try and take it in the true spirit of giving, but if you’ve turned on a TV lately then you know that ’tis the season is really all about our culture’s obsessive wanting. “Wanting” is a word with multiple definitions, and in America, we’re guilty of them all.

As I think about what to get people this year, I find myself wishing that I could truly give, but if I give something that serves only to worsen a pathology, then I’ve hardly given in any meaningful sense, have I? Would you consider giving a bottle of Wild Turkey to an alcoholic? That’s about how I feel as the number of shopping days until Xmas dwindles. I’m not talking about everybody I know, but feel free to recall that I recently read Affluenza and infer that there are some problem spots on my list.

So I’ve decided that this year I’m going to pass out some gifts that genuinely make the world a better place. Specifically, I call your attention to Heifer International, an organization that lets you donate livestock to families and communities in the developing world. Maybe a goat or a sheep, perhaps a flock of chicks or geese, or even some trees (or bees) – all of which can help make an actual difference for people who have precious little of material value. $100, given in the name of a friend or family member, can potentially change a life. $100 for another disposable gadget from Best Buy? Forgotten before the New Year arrives.

If you, like me, are thinking about the hollowness of what the holidays have become, I encourage you to check out In the next few days some of my S&R colleagues will be along with their own recommendations for gifts that make a difference, and I encourage you to share you own ideas in the comment thread below.

12 replies »

  1. Nora gives geese, chickens and ducks (through her grandmother). I’m thinking about a goat this year- you can’t go wrong with a goat.

  2. Never can go wrong with a goat…delicious too.

    I’ve given through Heifer, and i can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s the gift of capital, rather than a charity donation to something like the Starvation Army.

  3. Oh it is. If memory serves me correctly, the recipient of the “gift” is required to give offspring of the livestock to others in the community and pass along the training that the recipient gets as well.

  4. Just for the record, recipients don’t become recipients until they’re trained in humane livestock care and good micro-business practices.

  5. Their work is wonderful – and not just in developing nations either. They have done important work in North America after Katrina, in Appalachia and with the Navajo Nation. I didn’t see any reference to it on the web site, but they must out the most interesting magazine called The Ark. Been a huge fan of Heifer for a long time. Thanks for highlighting them!

  6. I gave my mom bees one year and I’m planning to go through Heifer for another gift this season. A friend of mine is big on Farmville and so I’m going to ask her what her favorite farm animal is and get it for her for Christmas. She’ll never suspect the real thing…