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Avoid the Mall with These Gifts

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Homeschool Mom suggests gift alternatives to joining the stampeding herd of wild animals.

Avoid the Mall with These Gifts

And now the holiday season officially starts. For me, a Christian, the first Sunday of Advent begins our countdown to Christ's birth. To the rest of America, there may be Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, and a slew of other traditions to celebrate, but to everyone it means shopping. In my opinion, the Christmas season is about more than gluttony and frenzied shopping. Why not make the holiday season mean more than presents and eating too much?

There are a lot of alternatives to the usual shopping insanity, and even ways to cut down on buying for those people, like children, that you have to give to. My children enjoy picking charities or causes we can support -- and when they are involved in the process, they are more willing to expect less for themselves.

1) If your heart breaks for those struggling throughout the world just trying to get clean water and food to eat, try World Vision or Samaritan's Purse. Organizations like these provide opportunities to buy chickens or other animals that can sustain a family throughout the year. They also provide malaria nets and other life-saving materials. You can purchase items in someone's name.

2) If you are environmentally motivated, there are many organizations that plant trees in a loved one's name. Our local nature center has an animal adoption program which allows you to donate in the name of a local furry neighbor -- like a possum or squirrel.

3) In lieu of toys, buy a pass to somewhere fun -- like a museum or park -- and spend the year exploring together while supporting the organization.

4) You can give to an organization that supports medical conditions or disabilities that affect someone you love. My kids have cystic fibrosis, and when someone gives money in their honor, I am very grateful and touched.

5) Spend time as a family volunteering. Churches, missions, temples, and shelters everywhere are gathering supplies for gifts or aid to families all over the U.S. One year we made cookies and placemats for our downtown homeless shelter, and even had a tour and met some of the people. The director of the mission told us that all the men quietly folded up their placemats with "We love you" and "Merry Christmas" scrawled in child's handwriting with them. My then two-year-old daughter stood by a man's wheelchair with her tiny hand on his arm while they watched some old black-and-white movie.

I can tell you, everyone who witnessed it was deeply moved. It was probably the first time in a long time the man had that kind of affection from a child or anyone else for that matter.

Just because the economy is in the dumpster doesn't mean we can't celebrate -- we could adjust how we do it. America has always been a country that shows her stars during difficult times. This is our time to shine.

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