The Spirit of the Season – Suggestions for a More Just and Intentional Holiday Season

While I don’t consider myself a Christian, I do consider myself a follower of the message of Christ, and I do celebrate Christmas culturally as a way to count my blessings and put forth a little bit of extra love out into this world.  Thus, my friend Sheila suggested I offer some of my suggestions for making this time of year a more just, intentional, and love-filled holiday, especially since the power of our consumption in the U.S. has great potential to change the world and also great potential to do harm in this world.  Perhaps I should have written this blog earlier in the season so that those buying for Hanukkah could have benefit from the list (and considering that most have already done their Christmas shopping), but hopefully you can draw some insight from the post either for this year or holidays of the future.

In no particular order, here are a few

Suggestions for a More Just and Intentional Holiday Season

1.  Many of us will buy electronics as gifts this holiday season.  iPods, lap tops, cell phones – These are all awesome gifts to give, but we also must make sure we are considering the environmental implications of our electronics.  It’s time for us to demand green electronics!

2.  As we prepare our waistlines for lots and lots of delicious treats – cookies, feasts, fudge, eggnog – it is important to remember that about 5.5 million children will die this year as a result of hunger.  Thus, while spending money on your Christmas ham or Tofurkey, consider donating to the United Nations World Food Programme, one of the more proactive hunger-fighting organizations.

3.  Speaking of food, the environmental impact of meat consumption is pretty staggering.  One meal consisting of beef or ham as a primary dish can cost our earth up to 55 square feet of rain forest and 2,400 gallons of water.  Now, I am a vegetarian primarily for the environmental reasons, but I don’t consider it my job to convince others to stop eating meat.  However, I always love to encourage people to consume less meat for their health and the health of our planet.  Thus, consider a vegetarian Christmas dinner this year.  If you can’t give up that Christmas ham, consider making all sides and desserts vegetarian!

4.  Looking to pick up some last-minute Christmas/Holiday Cards?  The Gathering Place, the only daytime drop in center in Denver for women and children who are experiencing homelessness, sells amazing, hand-made cards for the Holidays!  Women who participate in card making receive $1.50 for each of the $2 cards sold!  To find out more information about The Gathering Place or to look into ordering cards, visit their website!

5.  One of the best ways to serve others this Holiday season is to work to alleviate poverty.  Microloans are a fantastic way to do just that!  Microloans are small, easily-repaid loans given in hopes of spurring entrepreneurship that can create a sustainable path out of poverty.  Kiva, one of the most prominent microlending organizations out there, facilitates about $100 million in loans each year!  Consider lending through Kiva in the name of your loved one this year as a way to pass on the joy of the season while fighting poverty worldwide.

6.  I am often conflicted this time of year as I pass outstretched hands on the street and do not give, instead wanting to make sure that the money I give can best benefit those without homes.  In turn, this year I will be donating to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.  There is an organization like this one in almost every major city.  Last year, I gave to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.  Consider doing so as well!

7.  While donating in someone’s name is an awesome way to give this Holiday season, it can also be fun to have something tangible to put under the Christmas tree.  Since 1989, the Women’s Bean Project has been helping women break the cycle of poverty and homelessness through employment in their gourmet food production and handmade jewelry manufacturing businesses.  Buy some delicious soups or other tasty treats or perhaps some handmade jewelry from the Women’s Bean Project so that your gift can keep on giving!

8.  Ever given someone a camel for Christmas?  How about a piece of a camel?  Well, this year you can!  Heifer International is a phenomenal organization that donates livestock to impoverished families and communities around the world.  Why livestock?  Check it out:

9.  In the United States, perhaps there is no greater gift than the gift of literacy.  Being able to read opens more doors than probably any other skill in our culture.  My incredible friend and housemate Becca teaches 7th grade at Bruce Randolph School, a highly-successful public school in an impoverished neighborhood of Denver.  She’s getting ready to teach a unit constructed around Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz, but there is not enough funding for the books.  So . . . Becca has started the “Books for Bruce” project as she aims to acquire 40 copies (one classroom set) for her students.  Each copy is $10.  I’m buying two!  If you’re interested in buying copies of Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood for the students at Bruce Randolph School, email to learn how.

10. To continue highlighting the work of my amazing friends, my buddy Zach just completed two years of service with Admission Possible in Minneapolis, MN.  Each year there are at least 200,000 low income high school graduates who are capable of attending college that don’t end up going.  Admission Possible is working to change this!  By helping give students the tools and social capital they need to navigate the tricky college testing environment and application process, AP helps 98% of its low income students gain admittance to college!  Consider joining their efforts as they expand their work to more schools by giving a tax-deductible gift this Holiday season.

11.  You know what’s awesome?  Helping people while being a lazy-ass who just clicks his mouse!  This is what I try to remember to do every single day at the Hunger Site and its sister sites the Breast Cancer Site, the Child Health Site, the Literacy Site, the Rain Forest Site, and the Animal Rescue Site.  At each of these sites, you can give a small donation through the site’s sponsors and advertisers by simply clicking a button!  Even better, you can shop in the Hunger Site Store and purchase awesome gifts for loved ones that also help those in need!!!

12.  My wonderful friend Mikaela attends Flatirons Community Church here in Colorado, and her church has an awesome partnership with a village in Afghanistan.  Specifically, they have been working to provide housing, medical care, and a school building for women disabled and widowed by the war in Afghanistan.  Partnering with Sozo International, they have also been selling hats, scarves, and gloves made by the women with which they partner.  I encourage you to consider joining those at Flatirons in shopping at the Sozo Store in selecting Holiday gifts this year.

13.  In 2004, I volunteered at a Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference in South Dakota and met an amazing young man named Travis Kiefer. Now the Executive Director of Gumball Capital, an organization that “empowers student entrepreneurs to end poverty”, Travis looked for a way to bring attention to its cause and challenge himself to do something pretty cool.  He wanted to do something big, something that would stretch him, so he looked at breaking a world record.  Travis recently ran the final marathon in his quest to run a marathon on each continent.  Completing his run in Antarctica, he became the youngest American to achieve such feat.  Through this process, he has also been working to raise $50,000 to alleviate global poverty through his marathon running.  He is asking for donations of $27, a number significant to the organization, as they give $27 and 27 gumballs for individual student groups to use their creativity to raise money for supporting micro-loans across the world.  Visit Gumball Capital’s website to learn more and to donate!

14.  On the 14th day of Christmas, I encourage you to consider the environmental impact of the ways you celebrate the Holidays.  My good friend and fellow blogger Karen recently wrote a great post about thinking green during the Holidays, and the Guardian offers a guide to greener gift wrappings and cards!  One small step you can consider this year is avoiding traditional wrapping paper.  Most wrapping paper can’t be recycled for the following reasons:

  • Wrapping paper is often dyed and laminated.
  • It can also contain non-paper additives, such as gold and silver coloring, glitter and plastics.
  • It can be very thin and contain few good quality fibers for recycling.
  • It usually has tape on it from the gift wrapping.

Thus, I encourage you this year to use reusable cloth gift bags for the classier touch, or if you’re like me and think that what’s inside counts, consider wrapping in an old newspaper (I prefer an old edition of the Sunday comics).

Regardless of how you do it, make this year’s Holiday season a more intentional and justice-seeking one!  Please, Please post in the comments if you have organizations you think others should consider supporting!  It would be awesome if this posting could be a wider resource for those looking to ensure that their dollars are helping people and the earth this holiday and in holidays for many years to come.

Peace be the Journey.


Post Script – Since I had trouble getting the time this week to post and I know I won’t have time next week to post with all of the Christmas events my family will be hosting, I will be taking a week’s hiatus from posting!  Look out for my New Year’s edition of Change From Within the week of the 26th.


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