Giving the gift of giving

By Elizabeth Erickson | Dec 08, 2010

Among the words we teach our children after “dada” and “momma” are “thank you” and “please.” We try to instill grateful hearts. Yet, the holiday season is a flurry of lists, desires, wants and children’s dreams of more stuff.

We all bemoan it, but give into it fully each year. The following thoughts are not intended to Scrooge that away, but possibly enhance the meaning –  just a bit.

My treasured 7-year-old granddaughter needs encouragement to show thanks. This precious one’s only flaw, and it’s temporary, is that she’s 7; it will pass in about six months.

In contrast, her 3-year-old sister flew into my arms and said, “Gamma you’re the best gamma in the whole wurl!” And 5-year-old little-man’s whispered, “I wish I could go home with you every night,” kept me warm for days.

So I wonder: To where does the spirit behind those universally first taught words go? Not just in children, but in all of us. Not the words, but the truly grateful heart – the generosity of spirit?

In this world of foreclosures, bankruptcies, short sales and unemployment, the holidays arrive and still we make up lists that defy an awareness of the bigger picture.

Yet, contrasted with this is our driving desire to do good. Food banks, pitifully depleted at other times, are often filled to capacity, though the needs rise to meet the availability.  (

In addition to the material gifts, there are many wonderful opportunities for giving locally and internationally:  “A window (door) was donated in your name...” ( )

Or,  “A goat was purchased for a family in Tanzania in your name, which will provide a family with milk for three years....” (

These are brilliant, humane, generous, inventive, and productive gifts that will far outlast the season’s plastic.

Another organization that would make a nice addition to the material gifts:  

A Kiva account for your 12-year-old empowers him or her to choose a recipient for a micro loan of perhaps less money than a pair of shoes. But that amount can change someone’s whole world.

A gift of a Kiva lending account of say, $25 to $100 affords the ‘lender’ an education of the world; not only geography, but conditions of third-world countries.  

A loan to a woman in Iraq, or a single mom in Ethiopia or India will enable that person to start or expand a business, or earn a nursing degree. This gives wings to the concept of  “not a handout, but a hand up.”

You will see your $25 loan combine with $50 or $150 from others around the world for that borrower’s business. Loans combine from Sweden, South Carolina, a teenager in Quebec, Canada, or a classroom in Mukilteo.

A Tanzanian father can expand his furniture business with a loan of $250. A single mother can double her peanut butter sales with the purchase of a grinder and refrigerator for $190.

But the real sparkle is that these third-world borrowers repay their loans – usually within months. Then, that $25 Kiva loan is returned to your account. About 97 percent of Kiva lenders leave their money in the account and reinvest again and again.

No, it’s not investing American style; the money itself doesn’t grow. But the expansion of the human spirit by helping make such profound differences in other lives is immeasurable. The spirit’s value in catching a glimpse into the lives of those who understand the raw basics of “enough” is not to be found with an MBA.

I’ve watched my 3-year-old at the helm of a mouse surfing the Web. (Her parents are unabashedly computer nerds.)

She can’t yet grasp the Kiva concept, so she and the smaller ones will have an added gift of given in their names, providing milk for other little bones.

But my children and their spouses, as well as my 5- and 7-year-old grandkids will surf the Web Christmas afternoon, gifting loans to mothers and fathers around the world seeking to better the lives of their own children.

It’s just a wild and crazy idea, as this year comes to a close.

May the season, so happy for some yet sharply sad and lonely for others, be one of peace and content no matter what your condition. The smallest donation to Kiva is a lifetime of difference in less fortunate corners of the world.

Perhaps brightening a corner, half way around the world, may brighten your own. May it be so.

E-mail or write to or Elizabeth Erickson at 700 3rd Street, Suite B, Mukilteo 98275.

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