Happier Holidays

This year, there’s a mild blizzard going on outside my house, I am hopelessly behind in holiday preparations and house cleaning, the radical right in the U.S. have successfully held the population of the country hostage in return for more cash for their rich corporate masters, a pattern being repeated in numerous countries, millions are still out of a job and running out of savings — and yet it is so much better for me and my family than it was last year when people I loved were in danger and financial desperation, when we lost a great deal, and fear was our regular companion. And so I am grateful, even as many things in life remain uncertain and fragile and as I hope that things grow better for 99% of the population of the world. And so this post is about good stuff and helping gifts and all that squishy, humanitarian, reaching out garbage that supposedly has something to do with many holiday celebrations in the depth of winter (or summer if you’re on the lower half of the planet.)

Three organizations that are helping the poor move forward against the odds and to which you might want to make a donation if you see so fit:

http://www.liftcommunities.org/

http://www.povertybridge.org/

http://www.goinspirego.com./

In North Carolina, a group of anonymous donors is once again dressing up as Santas and giving out $100 handshakes on the streets to those in need:

http://news.sympatico.ca/unusualnews/anonymous_secret_santas_hand_out_hundred-dollar_handshakes_to_those_in_need_in_us/d006adf0

If you want to get some do-gooder gifts this year, in addition to those geek gift suggestions from earlier, here are some suggestions compiled by Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/02/christmas-gifts-2010-9-gi_n_791413.html#s197866

One of those suggestions — Heiffers International — which helps people in under-developed parts of the world to be animal farmers and feed their families — is a pet project of fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss. Every year, he runs Worldbuilders, a donation-and-auction campaign to raise funds for Heiffers International to which numerous SFF and comics authors contribute all sorts of interesting and signed things that would make great gifts. Plus, let’s face it, the idea of buying someone a chicken for the holidays is just innately comical. You can check it out here:

http://blog.patrickrothfuss.com/2010/11/worldbuilders-2010/

My daughter came to me and said she wanted to spend some of her saved gift money to buy a whistle. Turns out she meant a metal whistle pendant from Falling Whistles, an organization trying to help rescued child soldiers and child slave laborers in the Congo and elsewhere in Africa. The youngest child soldiers, you see, are not given guns. They are given whistles, told to blow them, and stuck out in front for the enemy to shoot at. Falling Whistles is working to save these kids and help them with the difficult road they face once they are rescued. To support this effort, you can choose from a selection of different whistles or buy a T-shirt. Or just make a donation.  You can find more information here:

http://www.fallingwhistles.com/main/

And lastly, there is Kiva, an organization I’ve been contributing to for over a year now. Kiva works with non-profit organizations all over the world to provide micro-loans to small entrepreneurs and entrepreneur groups. The minimum loan you can make is US$25, but once the person you loaned that $25 to pays it back, you can loan it out again to another entrepreneur. Not many charity contributions go that long in their effect. And you can team up with people you know to do it — have the whole office sponsor someone or your church. Kiva has a link in my Links column, but here it is again, if you are interested:

http://www.kiva.org/

These of course are just some of the good causes and organizations out there. (Unicef will also let you buy a chicken.) But after having to watch the naked greed on the news lately and hear well off people complain about the prices of e-books, hearing about these people trying to build good things in the world made me feel better and reminded me of the resilience and hope we all need to get through life.

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