Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Gift of Giving

For years, I have struggled to maintain balance during the holidays. You know, you promise yourself that this year will be different. Less stress, more fun, less credit, more handmade gifts, less running around, more time with loved ones. Nice concept, but really hard to do!

How do we create a more balanced atmosphere during the holidays? First, for me, was realizing the reason we celebrate this time of year. There is no coincidence that all the major religions have holidays during December. It is the "Season of Light" for many reasons. So, whether you have an established belief system or are among those who diligently follow the seasons, re-connecting with the particular reason for celebrating can be an "enlightening" experience!

Second, I prioritized. I looked at the myriad opportunities I had to celebrate and I weeded out all the things that were not crucial. My priorities surrounded doing things or going places that would enrich my spirit or give me an opportunity to be with those I loved.

Third, I returned to the old practice of making gifts or giving of my time/resources. I hate shopping during this time of year. And, let's face it, enough is enough. What do we really need? I would rather give my time and money to others who can use it than to wander around a mall aimlessly looking for the best buys.

For those who may want to give the Gift of Giving, there are many organizations that can really use your help.

Habitat for Humanity is a great organization. Offering your time is a great gift to give. You don't have to know anything about building; they have many jobs and welcome all the hands that want to help.

Gifts that Give More is a wonderful place to shop for fair trade gifts that also give to various causes: breast cancer, literacy, child health, animal rescue and the rainforest preservation. For every item you buy, donations are given to the site from which you purchase your gifts. So,for instance, if you buy an ornament on the breast cancer site, the company will donate money towards a mammogram for a woman in need.

Or, you can find someone close to home who might need your support to reach a goal such as my dear friend, Tara, who will be cycling this spring to raise money for AIDS research. You can visit her site at http://www.aidslifecycle.org/1107
She is just one of many people who are walking, cycling, running or even driving to raise money for various causes. You probably know someone close to home who is participating in an event such as this. Why not give them your support?

Finally, you can join ONE and give the gift of your time to help fight poverty, AIDS, hunger, disease.

May the Gift of Giving bring you mitzvah (blessings). Remember, we bless others when we give; they bless us by receiving. What better way to celebrate the upcoming holidays?

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Giving of Thanks

It's the day after Thanksgiving. The leftovers have been stored. Already, folks are saying, "What, turkey again!" Those that over-indulged yesterday are working on the diets they said they would start. Life goes on.

I wonder, at the end of today, how many of us will give thanks? What about next week, next month, next year?

Thanksgiving, like Valentine's Day, and Mother and Father's Day, is a holiday that I think should be celebrated every day of the year. Just think how much richer our lives would be if, every day, not just once a year, we celebrated "the Giving of Thanks." Gratitude is such a wonderful gift to give ourselves as well as others.

I challenge the readers of this blog to begin a new year, beginning today, by taking a moment each day to give thanks. Reflect on your day. Look at how, even the moments that were most difficult, helped bring you to where you needed to be. Sometimes, hindsight being 20/20, we don't see how adversity is a blessing in disguise. A grateful heart and mind helps us discern these moments.

My suggestion for beginning a thank-full life would be to journal your gratitude. It is a great way to record those things in our life that give us cause to be grateful. It also allows us to return to a certain time and place in remembrance of what we were thankful for.

Melodie Beattie has a great quote, "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."

May you create visions of peace, love and happiness through your individual journey of Giving Thanks.