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Here are six creative ways to make your holiday giving really count as you support small businesses, gender-balanced politics, creativity, positive vibes and humor. It's the Season of Light, so don't forget to turn on the switch!
1. Shop Small
Support local businesses on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 30) and earn $10 from American Express. AmEx is offering card members a $10 statement credit when they enroll their eligible American Express Card and then use it to spend $10 or more in a single in-store transaction at a qualifying small business location on Small Business Saturday. The number of enrollments is limited. Enrollment opened at 12:00 am MST on Nov. 24th and continues until 11:59 pm MST on November 30th unless the enrollment limit is reached sooner. (Terms and conditions apply.) More info here.
Wear or give an ElectWomen T-Shirt to advertise your preference for more gender-balanced representation. (Small - XXLarge, 100% cotton. WARNING: Menfolk who wear this T-shirt may not have to be positioned under the mistletoe to get kissed.) Also available: "Alison" (KY Senate) and "Wendy" (TX Governor) ElectWomen T's. Want to find out how to elect women? Read Kathy Groob's Pink Politics, also available at ElectWomen.com.
Give ElectWomen buttons (available in packs of 25 buttons, 1.25"- diameter) for stocking stuffers, gift-toppers, or as "Random Act of Kindness" gifts to the people who comment appreciatively on your t-shirt. http://electwomen.com
3. Encourage Stress Reduction and Creativity
Give the gift of fun and relaxation to yourself or anyone on your holiday list with a Zentangle kit that has everything you need for meditative doodling. No artistic ability nor experience is needed - anyone who knows which end of the pencil to use can easily learn this clever method of drawing patterns.
The obvious care that went into every aspect of the creation of this kit, and the extremely high quality of every component, is just so, well, zen.
The lovely, organic designs that result from these simple techniques are easy to create, and the process enhances stress-relief, creativity, and a deeply satisfying sense of wellbeing.
The small (just 4-inch square) heavy paper cards provided for "zentangling" feel so inviting. I drew mine while spending a long time in a waiting room, and was disappointed to have to stop when my name was finally called! http://www.zentangle.com
4. Focus on the "Humerus"
Humor is a gift to everyone's mental and physical health, not to mention a great solution for the "hard-to-buy-for" folks on your list. Surprise a comedically-inclined loved one with an I found this Humerus T-shirt from Cafe Press.
Don't neglect your atheist friends this holiday season. This 16" long stocking decorated with the evolution of man, the Big Bang and the word "Science!" is from Archie McPhee, noted West-Coast purveyors of questionable humor.
Of course you'll fill it with the Charles Darwin Christmas Ornament so your atheist friends can include a jolly, bearded fellow on their science tree as they gather 'round to sing secular, humanist carols.
And don't forget the Hanukkah stockings (Oy, oy, oy!), which you can fill with Bazooka Joe bubble gum (with comics in Hebrew) and a tiny replica of the Ark of the Covenant (Note: Wrath of God not included with basic model).
Additional must-have stocking stuffers for any persuasion include wasabi candy canes , glow-in-the-dark jellyfish ornaments, and the Bigfoot Air Freshener.
5. Spread the Good Vibes Around with Positive Music
What the world needs now is - positive music vibes. When I'm in a funk, I listen to some posi-tunes, and that totally rocks my world! Some of my favorites are the musicians I've been inspired to write about on Opednews, including Greg Tamblyn, Harold Payne, and Daniel Nahmod (subject of an upcoming article).
Award-winning singer-songwriter Greg Tamblyn is saving the world from whiny, victim love songs. (We know it's true because that is the name of one of his CDs.) His clever lyrics and uplifting tunes will ratchet your joy up a couple of notches. He honors the annual AmEx Small Business Saturday offer on phone orders, and this year he's added his own 30% off sale, too. You can hear his music by clicking on the albums here. Three of my favorites are on the same album, and include All These Atoms, Holy Now, and The Grand Design, listen here. His sale details are here.
Harold Payne is a multi-platinum singer songwriter noted for his positive tunes. My favorites include Something Wonderful, Vamos a La Playa, and his song that Peter, Paul and Mary made famous, Music Speaks Louder Than Words. Listen here. For the ultimate gift, you can hire Harold to write a custom song for your event or loved one. Happy recipients include Regis Philbin, you can hear his personalized song on Harold's website.
I first met Daniel Nahmod nearly a decade ago when he sang at a Kucinich event in Arizona and I became an instant fan. His new Mellow Time: Soothing Songs for the Whole Family is on the 2014 Grammy ballot. Some of my favorites include One Power, Sacred Love, and Water. He's having a 50% off sale on both Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.
A spirited collection of new, posi-holiday music, More Than a Season, is the merry result of a five-day songwriting retreat where 12 of Posi Music's best known and loved artists wrote winter holiday songs together during 5 days of over-100-degree Phoenix heat. Songs include Joy in Our Hearts, Solstice Lullaby, and From the Bottom Up. Listen here.
6. Take a Tip from Tzedakah
Tzedekah (pronounced like Neil Sedaka) is loosely translated from the Hebrew as "charity", but the meaning is really deeper than that. The website www.jewfaq.org says, The word 'charity' suggests benevolence and generosity, a magnanimous act by the wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor and needy. The word "tzedakah" is derived from the Hebrew root Tzadei-Dalet-Qof, meaning righteousness, justice or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act; it is simply an act of justice and righteousness, the performance of a duty, giving the poor their due.
Tzedakah box, Charleston, 1820, silver, Nat'l Mus. of Amer. Jewish History
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Tzedekah extends beyond boundaries to include both Jews and gentiles, and some Jews consider it to be the most important commandment. Yet a remarkably small portion of their gifts go to specifically Jewish charities, and while Jews comprise about 2% of the American population, they make up about 30% of America's most generous donors.
The levels of Tzedakah, ranked here in ascending order of greatest good, is an inspiring list for a person of any religious or nonreligious persuasion:
1. Giving begrudgingly
2. Giving less that you should, but giving it cheerfully
3. Giving after being asked
4. Giving before being asked
5. Giving when you do not know the recipient's identity, but the recipient knows your identity
6. Giving when you know the recipient's identity, but the recipient doesn't know your identity
7. Giving when neither party knows the other's identity
8. Enabling the recipient to become self-reliant
When neither the person who gives nor the recipient knows the identity of the other, the only place to focus one's attention is on the joy of giving, which is the main point, anyway.
So give yourself the gift of enjoying the season, and remember to sprinkle a few random acts of kindness around your world!
Some suggestions from my previous annual gift ideas lists are still relevant, links are in the Series List below.