Occupy Your Conscience – Black Friday 2011

Every year around the holidays there is that mixture of celebrating meaningfully and celebrating well and possibly not celebrating as we might feel there is little to celebrate. In honor of of all those mixed emotions, I am putting out a wish list for students, parents, friends, family……

Those of us who live in the western world have SO MUCH that we actually have to give it away each year – think Goodwill and all the other places we donate our stuff to. Sometimes that donated stuff is so overwhelming it is shipped to third world countries. An example of this is when I found a beautiful small red cotton rug from America in Kenya (the slums of Eldoret) to put in my office.  I spent most of my  shopping time at second hand shanty shacks in Kenya as it is no different than what I do in America.   We really don’t need more ‘stuff’- what we need is stuff of value and meaning in a season for which we actually yearn to do good. The best memories come from giving something meaningful.

So, for Black Friday 2011 and all the days through the rest of the holidays, think about what wonders you can find at second hand stores – most notably BOOKS!   Books are key to learning and education. Giving a child a book lets them know you value education. There are books on every subject and reading/literacy is really what makes us different from other parts of the evo tree. 

Books do not need to be new – they just need to be gently used and passed on.   Some of my favorite books have come from second hand because the hardbound original is out of print or so extraordinary that it is just rare. Case in point is The Columbia Historical Portrait of New York by John A. Kouwenhoven/Doubleday which my dad found for me when I was in grad school in NYC.  My NYC subway map resides there as a bookmark for my next journey back.

Books are so popular that  their smell has been captured for those of us who use modern technology to read.   http://smellofbooks.com/    Books are a wonderful item to share, pass on, write a special note to some one/dedicate.   Books have the power to raise some one up to their highest and best level.   Algebra has not changed in a bazillion years even though text book companies for schools would have us think otherwise.  History does not change – just the perspective of the author. You can never have enough history books because we still have war so clearly we have not learned from our past.  Art is the ability to communicate without words and we can never have enough of that.  Everything else may have changed but the essence is there and some of the older books are just phenomenal for illustration.

Book crossing can put a book into the hands of many and  makes for a darn good sense of joy  http://www.bookcrossing.com/  .   Imagine giving one or two books to some one at the airport going back to a foreign country where books are very difficult to come by.  You could track it if it shows up on Bookcrossing – more fun than another round of Flat Stanley!!  You can donate books to organizations which get books to other countries – just type in ‘donating books to other countries’ on Google and you will have tons of resources. 

If you think giving a book is not enough, please consider Heifer.org, Red Cross, http://www.un.org/en/  (all things United Nations – food aid, health care – UNICEF, high commission for refugees, etc.) and all the other amazing organizations out there which do so much for so many who just can not do it for themselves.

Money is in short supply for many of us so there is also donations of time. Not just the Thanksgiving Dinner at the homeless shelter – the giving of time once a week or once a month to something bigger than YOU.   If I begin a list in this section, I will just cry and stop typing because there is everything from food banks, animal shelters, hospitals/VA’s, Peace Corps, military abroad, the environment, hospice and so forth. Find something out there and volunteer. You will feel better – you will raise your awareness and make a difference in a world which is often filled with mixed emotions this time of year.

I know I did not list nearly enough because frankly, there is not enough blank space on Google or paper for that  or a machine to bind the book for the ideas and ways to give.  In addition to buying ‘stuff” (it may stimulate the economy) which is hardley ever fulfilling or meaningful, GIVE something and be the change you wish to see in this world.  Make a difference.