There's A World Outside Your Window

It's been 22 years since Do They Know It's Christmas? and I still cry every time I hear the song. I apologize in advance for the disjointed nature of this post. I have a lot to say and, frankly, I lack the talent to say it well or with style.

We are extremely lucky to live in this incredibly wealthy country, where we have access to clean water and abundant amounts of food, where we have shelter from the cold, where we are safe to practice our religious beliefs. As a female, I have been lucky to have been born in a time and place where I could get an education equal to my brother's, where I do not have to fear rape while getting water for my family or as punishment for accusations made against my family, where pregnancy and child birth are not the most common cause of death for women and infants. This accident of birth is something for which I will be forever grateful, it truly is the greatest gift I have been given, and one which makes all other gifts pale. All I can do in return is to pass along what I can.

So, yes, I really like the shoes and I am really happy they are mine. I have a few things for Fred which I picked up yesterday, Julian is getting a stocking full of clementines (which may cause him to explode from joy--he really loves the little oranges), and I knit scarves for the whole family. However, I can't really buy big gifts for the people closest to me because there are a lot more people in the world who need gifts more than we do, people for whom the Christmas bells ringing are the clanging chimes of doom. I need to do more than thank God that it's them and not me.

This year, as in previous years, we bought books for all the children in our lives. The kids are getting older so, I hope, we will eventually be able to buy them shares of animals. Ordinarily, I feel uncomfortable about giving donations in lieu of gifts (because, unless requested, I worry it is the philanthropic equivalent of giving bowling ball with Homer on it), however, who could quibble with the gift of livestock?

In 2002, Mukhtar Mai was gang raped on the orders of her village elders in 2002. Instead of keeping quiet and, maybe, killing herself to restore her own honor, she spoke out. Her mother encouraged her, telling her that "Someone has to be the first drop of rain." Mukhtar Mai pressed charges against the men who raped her and they were found guilty (though their convictions were overturned, the Pakistani Supreme Court is currently reviewing the case) and she received a compensation check from the government. She used the $8,300 to start schools in her village. I don't know where she found the courage to continue to fight, I don't know where she found the grace to give back to the village, but I am so astounded that she did.

I first became aware of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital the way most people do, I saw the commercials. But then, a few years ago, a very young girl I know began treatment there and I came to find out what a marvelous place it is for children and their families.

I know I was naive at twelve, but I believed that we would end poverty in the eighties, that we wouldn't still be talking about famine and disease in Africa all these years later. Perhaps it is naive of me to think that signing a petition and giving money will do anything, but the alternative (apathy and inertia) is unacceptable. I know it is probably naive of me now, but I believe we can make poverty history before Julian reaches adulthood. I hope that when he is old enough to understand the lyrics of the song, I will be able to talk about famine in Africa in the past tense.

So this year, as in previous years, most of the money which could be spent on Xboxes and Prada will be donated to charity. The greatest gift to give is life.


kim said…
My husband and I were just saying how we wish we had thought of donating in lieu of gifts earlier. This year the need of others has become very personal.

I've signed the petition at One also and CARE is a great organization.
Judy said…
We've kept things rather simple this year, as far as gifts (each child got one "bigger gift" and that was basically it), but traveling to see and stay with family cut into too much of our holiday budget, and we couldn't do as much as we would like.

I hear about people whose holiday light displays cost thousands of dollars, and just imagine how many people could have eaten on that.

We're trying to get in the habit of giving charitable gifts "in honor of" people who we think would appreciate it - the wonderful lady who does story hour at our library, for example.

And I know that no matter what I do, it's never enough, and I will constantly strive to do more.

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