By Maria Johnson
What is it about the Christmas season that strikes our culture’s fancies so? Is it the warm gatherings of close friends and insane relatives? Is it the sweet fragrance of cookies dispersing themselves on the sheet in the oven? Is it that initial gasp at every unique fallen flake of the first snow of the season? Is it finally reaching the marshmallows once the hot cocoa has swum through our sipping lips? Is it the cheesy and hilarious Christmas movies playing on screens throughout the neighborhood? Is it the laughter when the gingerbread house falls down because frosting is not an acceptable form of mortar? Is it the community being unified by hearing the same songs, hanging the same lights, and decorating the same trees? Is it the contests of ugly sweaters and the exchanges of useless white elephant gifts? Is it the lighting up of a child’s face when they open their first present on Christmas morning? Is it the small hope of an obscured source that somehow seems to swell, even if ever so slightly, in every heart that celebrates the holiday?
And what else happens during the Christmas season that we are perhaps not so often exposed to as we live our happy lives? Is it the people who are worth no less than you reading this that die slowly of thirst because they can’t get clean drinking water? Is it the women who, like all women, deserve respect, but are forced into sex trafficking, being raped repeatedly and risking their health just to get their kids fed? Is it the children that peer over the school fence from the outside, unable to receive an education and reach their full potential for lack of funds? Is it the many countries with children being abducted, women being raped, and families being displaced or violently killed by their own government or rebel groups around them? Is it the 145 million kids that are, according to World Vision, literally underweight and at risk of dying because they don’t have enough food to eat?
Let’s pause for just a moment. Are. You. Kidding. Me. 145 million people do not have enough food to eat. I know it’s easy to look that number over, simply because it’s too big for us to completely grasp. But please take a second and think about this very real problem. It is almost 2013. We have been well aware for quite some time that there is enough food for everyone on this earth, yet there are still people dying. And there are still people forced into labor and sex; there are still people deprived of water and food; there are still innocent families being attacked in their homes and run out of their neighborhood. So, while we enjoy our Christmas with gifts, parties, and tree-shaped Reese’s, I urge you to remember what is still happening in countries other than your own, in states other than your own, in neighborhoods other than your own, and in houses other than your own. I’m not trying to form this picture of little starving African kids in your mind. Many people in Africa are actually doing really well, and their economy is expected to continue to grow. So my aim is not to single out any one country. What I am aiming to get across is that there is constantly need in the world, and it doesn’t go away just because we get more presents. It’s important to enjoy our blessings, but it’s also important to use our blessings to bless others. There are a lot of online shopping options that help us do just that. If you’re searching for a gift for a friend or relative, or just something you’ve been needing, here are a few sites you can shop from that will be beneficial to you and others.
Help support fair trade jobs and keep women from the sex industry:
-The Red Thread Movement (bracelets)
-Ten Thousand Villages (clothing, scarves, jewelry, décor, etc)
-31bits (paper bead jewelry)
-12 Small Things
-Green Pacha (hats)
-Good and Fair Clothing
Help provide clean water to people who can’t currently reach it:
-No One Without (clothing and accessories)
Buying that gives materials for a kid to go to school:
-Ark Collective (backpacks)
-Fly Canvas (bags, purses)
-INDI Collective (Indian clothing)
Clothing and accessories that support individuals who are trying to bring peace to the Dominican Republic of the Congo, among others:
Giving back to those impacted with HIV/AIDS:
-Barnabas Clothing Co.
-Raven + Lily
Helping the Hungry:
-Fed by Threads
Giving clothes to those who need clothes: