If you read my post about Bill McKibben's Hundred Dollar Holiday, then you probably have a good idea of some of my misgivings about Christmas and what it has become. I love the holiday and all the cheer and decorations and festivities, but these have gotten out of control in some respects and completely separated from their more humble and well-intentioned beginnings. McKibben's book challenges readers to spend less during the holidays in an effort to get back to the more essential meaning and messages of Christmas. Though the ideas I have to offer in this blog post aren't necessarily going to decrease your spending this holiday season, they are much more aligned with the kind of generosity and reductions in consumerism of which Christmas is in need.
I first gave a microloan gift to my mother for her birthday earlier this year. Though I had heard of microloans before and was fond of the concept, I was always a little worried about what people would think of upon receiving them. Microloan projects essentially allow people to donate small sums of money to people in less developed nations to start up small businesses and sustainable projects. The money is paid back to the original lender over time, and most of the microloan organizations then allow the lender to select another project to loan to or to keep the money in full. Though it may not seem like much to lend $25 to a woman struggling to start her own company, these donations can be crucial in helping helping get on their feet and make an independent and fruitful life for themselves. And my mother seemed to really appreciate the gift. She enjoyed looking through all the projects available for funding and reading the life stories of these people for whom she had the power to offer help.
Givology, Kiva, GlobalGiving, Accion, FINCA, and GiveCorps are just a few of the organizations out there that help you supply microloans to entrepreneurs. These websites are largely easy to navigate as they list projects by type. You can seek out projects that seem of interest to you by sector or read through the biographies of potential borrowers to find a story that has special meaning for you. And it's easy to give gift certificates to people on your Christmas list who may feel better directing your $25 to a borrower in need (if not multiple borrowers over time) than accepting another item they don't particularly have to have.
During the holidays time and money are usually in short supply. The rush to find gifts for everyone on your list and the challenge to keep spending as low as possible makes it a more stressful time than it should be while distancing the holiday from its true origins. Microloan gift certificates are a nice reminder of the importance of generosity as well as gratitude. When searching the potential projects, it is incredible to see how much a small sum of money can do to change an individual's entire life in another nation. These projects help to put the holidays in better perspective and, after a short browse through any of these sites, hopefully some of your standard gift ideas will become a thing of the past as a more generous, selfless, and feel-good gift option replaces them.