All I Want For Christmas

After being here in India for over 4 months, I think my perspective on a lot of things has changed. One area in particular is fully realizing how many blessings I have had bestowed upon me and my life. I was raised in a loving family, never went without any necessary thing (food, water, clothing), had the opportunity to go to college, to pursue my interests. Before I came here, I don’t think I always appreciated them fully – I took them for granted at times.

However, I have seen things here that have dramatically changed how I look at things. I’ve seen families living in garbage dumps, seen children reduced to begging in the middle of busy roads in sprawling urban areas, seen people with limbs ravaged by polio – the list goes on. While I have had to focus a lot on my work, the sights I have seen still haunt me and probably will for the rest of my life.

I have done a lot of soul-searching and realized that when it really comes down to it – I honestly don’t need anything this holiday season. I have a good job, I live in a secure corporate compound with A/C, free bottled water, high speed internet, etc. There are people 200 yards away from me who struggle to survive.

To this end, I have decided to request that anyone who planned to give me gifts this holiday season make a donation to these charities instead. I’ve decided that the best thing I could receive for Christmas is knowing that others are being helped. As a challenge of sorts, I’ve personally donated $10 to each charity listed.

International Charities:

Save The Children: This group does a lot to help alleviate the suffering of children and families around the world, including right here in India. Their gift catalog allows to choose a gift that will help someone in countries all over the world.

Heifer International: This charity strives to help end hunger and provide those in poverty with a way to sustain themselves and their families – thereby stopping the vicious cycle. One can purchase an animal, a share of an animal, trees, etc. to further this goal. They operate all around the world, including India.

Samaritan’s Purse: By purchasing a gift through their catalog, you are giving something of tangible benefit to the poor and needy around the world (including India). From sponsoring an orphan’s care to providing vocational training, the gifts in their catalog will undoubtedly help others. They are an avowed Christian charity, but provide relief to everyone – they do not discriminate in who they help.

Local/Domestic Charities:

Salvation Army USA: They need no explanation – you’ve seen their red kettles all over the place for decades. I respect the work that this group does tremendously. I set up a “Red Kettle” on their site that you can donate to – kind of a fun way to track things.

Help A Willing Kid Foundation – Lansing, MI: This charity is very close to my heart. They provide kids in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Lansing with after school activities, including athletics (specifically amateur boxing), tutoring, etc. Through their work, they keep kids off the streets and provide them with a structured environment that gives them the opportunity to improve themselves and stay out of gangs/off drugs. I work personally with this all-volunteer organization and have seen first hand what the money raised goes towards.

Capuchin Soup Kitchen – Detroit, MI: Operated by the brothers of the Capuchin Franciscan order, the Capuchin Soup Kitchen provides food, clothing, and other necessary social services to those in need in Detroit. They have a rich history of serving the poor in the area.

Closing Words:

In conclusion, I just want to get it out there that I don’t expect anyone to donate if they do not want to. This is not a guilt trip or a burden I want to place upon anyone. I just want to help out those that are less fortunate by forsaking the tradition of receiving gifts for myself. Donate as much or as little as you wish – it’s the thought that counts. All I ask is that you let me know if you donate/where you donate – I want to put together a scrapbook/binder of sorts and maybe put together some neat graphs/stats for posterity.