A few years ago my family began a new tradition for holiday giving. Instead of buying each other presents, we decided to take turns developing new and unique ideas for a gift exchange each year.
The first year we were told to bring a collection of our favorite things, then a swapping game was used to guess the giver and distribute the gifts. The next year we were supposed to bring a gift item that represented some place we had visited during the year, and again a game was started to guess the identity of the giver.
When it was my turn to designate the strategy, I was naturally (thanks to all our ResultsPlus customers!) drawn to the world of charities and nonprofits and came up with an idea that we still talk about today. After drawing names, we had to learn what we could about our receiver’s interests, then make a charitable donation to recognize that interest. We had to wrap up a small token to symbolize the donation and help the recipient guess where the gift had been made.
Some very creative and clever gifts occurred that year:
- My daughter received a small toolkit as a symbol of her involvement in home-repair mission work, while the Appalachian Service Project received a donation in her honor.
- My sister received a magazine in celebration of her passion for genealogy, while the Minnesota Historical Society received a donation to continue their work preserving local history.
- My brother received a US Navy key ring to symbolize his admiration for our military, while the Wounded Warrior Project received a donation to help support our veterans with service-related injuries.
- My uncle received an iTunes card, while National Public Radio received a donation to help them continue to broadcast the classical music he loves.
I think we all got more out of the experience than we ever expected. Certainly it was good to shift the focus of our generosity more outwardly, and it was great to learn a bit more about each other in the process. But the greatest benefit came from the reminder that we are all the beneficiaries of charities and their missions. They make the world a better place and they can make us better people.