Ten Things for the Holidays
This monthly feature was conceived by writer and Nation editorial board member Walter Mosley as a kind of do-it-yourself opinion and action device. Most often "Ten Things" will offer a brief list of recommendations for accomplishing a desired political or social end, sometimes bringing to light something generally unknown. The purpose of the feature is to go to the heart of issues in a stripped-down, active and informed way. After getting our visiting expert--or everyday citizen--to construct the list, we will interview that person and post a brief online version of "Ten Things," with links to relevant websites, books or other information. Readers who wish to propose ideas for "Ten Things" should e-mail us at NationTenThings@gmail.com or use the e-form at the bottom of this page.
One lesson from the economic crisis that's even more crucial during the season of giving is to give more meaningfully. While every shopping outlet entices you with generous sales and quick-fix gifts, it's hard to know whether your hard earned pennies make for worthwhile presents. Here are ten ways to give "progressively" not only during the holidays but year round, as suggested by past and future contributors. You can live up to the tradition of holiday giving while making a difference in the lives of those who really need it. (For a ranking of the financial health of any of the organizations listed, visit Charity Navigator.)
Homelessness is a huge problem in Philadelphia, where there are approximately 4,000 people living on the streets and in shelters; roughly 80 percent are African-American. Past contributor to "Ten Things" Z.P. Heller says that Project HOME offers an incredible array of services, from housing to employment. With the economy and housing crises still affecting hundreds of thousands of Americans, this organization enables you to make a tangible difference at the local level. Go to Project H.O.M.E to donate.
Lend to a Kiva start-up. Through Kiva you can make a minimum $25 microloan that will go directly to an indigent entrepreneur halfway around the world who doesn't qualify for a standard bank loan. You can read entrepreneurs' profiles on the Kiva website; the site relies on Field Partners to ensure that your loan is being administered properly and that the entrepreneur repays the loan. Once the loan is repaid, you can choose to re-lend to another entrepreneur in need, donate to Kiva, or withdraw funds through PayPal. You can also purchase Kiva Gifts.
For the family member who already has everything, browse the Oxfam America Unwrapped online shopping catalog, then choose gifts for people in need from around the world--anything from a cooking stove and a dozen chicks to saving a lake and planting a forest.
Donate to American Jewish World Service's Fighting Hunger From the Ground Up campaign. You can give in someone else's name. Your gift supports people in the developing world who are creating smart, local, sustainable solutions to the global food insecurity crisis.
Reward your friends and family with beautiful, fair trade, handcrafted gifts that help contribute to a movement for global justice. Order here.
Gift to the environment: send green cards. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, US household waste shoots up from about 4 million tons to about 5 million tons just between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, making up as much as 30 percent of total landfill waste. Buy recycled paper products containing at least 30 percent post-consumer waste and bearing the Forest Stewardship Council seal, which means it comes from well-managed forests. For more green ideas, go to the GreenPenny.com. Check out New Leaf Products and the B Lab "Season of Giving" for special offers and discounts from progressive corporations.
Share a meal. Every year around the holidays, many people call Picture the Homeless, asking where they can donate money or volunteer. PTH members encourage people who want to help homeless people (and not just serve food to them) to sit down and eat with them--break bread, share stories and learn about struggles with poverty and racism. As PTH's slogan says, "Don't talk about us--talk with us!" Go to the Homeless Directory, click on your state and fill out the form to volunteer.
"Ten Things" will soon have a resident librarian. Here in advance are three books he recommends as gifts for yourself or a loved one: The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization, and The Inner History of Devices, edited and introduced by Sherry Turkle.
A gift to yourself and your loved ones is to remember what we each are about, to remember our role and place on the planet, and to stay in touch with this knowing. Find a way to be present before the things you consider holy. The idea is to ground yourself in an action that leads to this contemplation, this remembering. A phrase to hold close is a fragment from the Buddhist Metta Sutra, and it goes: May all beings be peaceful/May all beings be happy/May all beings be safe.
CONCEIVED by WALTER MOSLEY with research by Rae Gomes