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I too must give

This is something that I've thought about every year around Christmas time for the last few years.  I have refrained from saying anything because I don't want to come across as a spoil-sport, a wet blanket, self-righteous, insincere, ungrateful, or anything like that.  I love Christmas. I love being with family (although, we may not be able to be with family this year--sad day).  I love present exchange time.  But every year since about 2005, I have felt a strange guilt with the opening of every present addressed to me, and that guilt has grown steadily more intense each year.

I have everything that I need.  I have a wonderful family.  I have a loving fiancé.  I have all of the comforts of life--food, shelter, entertainment, clothing, etc.  I can go to the store any day that I want and buy any food that I have a craving for.  I can drive up to a building and, without ever leaving my car, order any meal on the menu that I like.  I am so blessed.  I have such an abundance of love and material possessions in my life.  (I am by no means wealthy, but I undoubtedly have sufficient for my needs and my wants.)  I'm not going to lie--I enjoy getting presents.  It makes me happy, and it's nice to have new things.  And I'm always very grateful to the person who gives me the gift.  That will never change.

Obviously, I'm not expecting a Christmas present from very many of my blog readers.  I only ever expect presents from my immediate family--but even then, it's just because I know they'll get me a present, it's not because I feel like I deserve one from them.  But, to anyone who might be thinking about getting me a present this year, this is the present that I want.  I need nothing, but there are so many people in the world that have none of the amenities that I have.  There are those without homes.  There are those without food.  There are those without clothing.  There are those who don't even know how to provide for these things for themselves, or lack the means necessary to do so.  This is the present I ask for: give to those who have not.

Volunteer in your local soup kitchen.  Donate some money to your favorite charity.  Maybe find a new charity to make your favorite.  Just searching the Internet very briefly this morning, I came across a site called "Charity Navigator" that seems to have a rather extensive list of charities, and it gives ratings for each of them based on criteria such as effectiveness and overhead.  Browse through the list, find one that you think is good, and donate money to it.  Put together hygiene packets or crochet blankets for the LDS church's humanitarian effort.  You can send me a note letting me know that you have donated money or time to a charity, and that will be the best Christmas present I have ever received.  You don't even have to tell me how much you donated, just that you did it.  Even if you don't want to do it for me, as a Christmas present to me, do it as a present to yourself or to the people you don't know whom you are helping out.

If you know of any institutions that you have found to be good, honest, altruistic institutions, please let me know.  I would very much like to put together my own list of charities that can be trusted.  I would hate to donate or ask others to donate to an institution that merely exists to make its founders wealthy, and I'm sure you share that sentiment.

Last year while I was in Utah for Christmas break, I met with a group of gay people who did an LGBT sub for Santa project.  We went to the store, bought all the clothes and things that were on the list of the needs for the families that we had, and then we went back and wrapped them.  It was a great time, and I felt so good doing it afterward.  Every year at the Wal-Mart where I go shopping, they put up an angel tree.  Its ornaments are just simple items--clothes or toys--that some family is in need of.  I always like picking something off of the tree and buying it while I'm shopping.  But, I really want to branch out.  There are those whose situation in life is much worse than mine, who do not appear on sub for Santa lists and do not have a place on the angel tree at my Wal-Mart.  I don't want to do this convenience-charity anymore.  It's not enough.  I want to actually step out of my comfort zone and go do something good.

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