Giving back and having A LOT of fun doing it!

This month in the Western World, Christmas is celebrated…one of my favorite times of the year… I love being cozy at home with my friends and family, sipping on a steaming cup of Yogi Tea doing a puzzle, and driving around town enjoying the lights and farolitos (New Mexican tradition).

Although I love all of the coziness this season brings, I’m finding it increasingly challenging to be part of all of the buying that is such a part of this holiday. I’m writing the week of Thanksgiving, and already, I find that I must resist the lure of Christmas music in the store and the urge to consume things that I know that I nor anyone else actually needs. The volume of commercialism is overwhelming in our country and it takes a very strong person to resist the urge to over-buy.

In the past, I’ve spent hours shopping, wrapping gifts and, while I absolutely love gift-giving, I’ve come to realize that this isn’t how I want to spend my time this December.

I’m, at heart, and above all, an environmentalist.  I love green, open space, clean air and pristine water.  I want this for me, my children, and all of the world.  When I lie in bed at night, thinking about the mass of plastic toys, gadgets, and sweaters that are created, the pollution that is expelled from the production process, the oil it takes to get them to us, and the packaging that must be discarded, it’s dizzying (and nauseating).

As much as I love giving and receiving gifts, I know that most of what I give and receive is not something that is actually needed by either party. Do we really NEED another sweater from Aunt Martha or scented candle from a co-worker? I just gave away bags of items from around my house, most of them gifts that I’ve received over the years.

I’m not trying to paint a ‘grinchy’ picture around gifting and the holidays but hoping to inspire other ways of expressing our love and appreciation for our loved ones while also considering your impact on our community and environment.

Here are some ‘alternative’ ideas on how to share and enjoy the holiday season, while doing something good for our communities and the environment

  • Giving to a charitable organization. My sister has been making donations to ‘Heifer International‘ and the ‘World Wildlife Fund’ in our name for the past couple of years. I love both of these organizations for their work to help support families and wildlife around the world. ‘Heifer’ helps purchase livestock for families in impoverished areas so that they can have regular food and income.  The World Wildlife Fund helps support environments around the world where native species are endangered.  They help work with local communities and forest service to protect land and habitat to help the animals and plants thrive and grow while supporting the livelihood of the local inhabitants. There are hundreds of organizations like these all over the world.  I give a little bit to a lot of organizations… yoga for Boston, inner-city children with ‘Yoga for Youth’, food for kids in our local community with ‘Food for Kids’, access to alternative care for people with chronic illnesses with the ‘Chanda Foundation‘, and ‘The Sandy Hook Promise‘ to help prevent gun violence,’ Impact Personal Safety‘.  Just find your passion, and I’m sure there is an organization to help fund people, animals, or the environment that meets your love.
  • Volunteering. One of the best ways to spend an afternoon with your co-workers, family or church group. Consider having an afternoon of service rather than another office or dinner party.  My friends and I come together 2-3 times a month to help chop veggies, clean our community kitchen, pick up trash, or feed the folks at our local homeless shelter.  It’s a great way to spend time with friends and do something good at the same time.  It feels good to help out our community but to also spend time with my friends. I love my friends, but we go get lunch all the time and,once a month, it’s nice to chat and chop veggies for our community kitchen instead.
  • Have a ‘White Elephant’ gift exchange.  Instead of buying something new from the store, consider ‘re-gifting’ something at home that you no longer cherish.  We’ve done this a few years at my office party, and it was a riot!  One year, my co-worker brought some Red Crawlers (worms that help decompose organic matter) to the exchange (he knew I really wanted these for my compost pile). One of the best gifts, and we all had a great laugh about it! It’s easier on your purse, the environment, and keeps you from having to make another trip to the store.

So….this is how we’ll be spending our holiday season…. we’re cooking at the warming shelter in Santa Fe, cleaning our community kitchen, and I’ll be gifting my office staff with lunch at my house.  I’m looking forward to my holiday puzzle with my family, some gluten-free gingerbread and some skiing on Christmas Day.

Wishing you and yours a fabulous holiday season. Let me know which holiday traditions you and your family have that support your budget,the environment and our community.  We’d all love to hear from you!

My Challenge to You:

Try one gift of giving or participating in one Random Act of Kindness that truly inspires you and makes your heart sing.  I invite you to do this either on your own and enjoy the sheer love that you may experience on your own, or invite some family and friends to join you.

My you feel full with light, love and healing.

As always, sending you and the planet healing prayers,

Dr. Arjan

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