From the stockings in Arizona....
To Yann in Cambodia
Our family engages in many altruistic traditions throughout the year, including during the holidays. We always buy a gift for a girl who is the same age as Chey should be that particular year. We volunteer and serve food to the hungry. My favorite, mostly because of the assigned anonymity, is the Kindness Project (tm), where I will often feel the most gratitude for having known my daughter in my own quiet way.
I began thinking about the holiday tradition of stockings. My children made their own stockings back in 1996, shortly after Joshua's birth. It was a special year for our family as we made room for our new baby.
So I decided that this year I wanted to do something meaningful with our stockings. After all, a person could spend $50 or more on gadgets and gizmos that wander into the netherworld of lost children's toys within moments after their emergence. I thought: Why not do something in my children's names that would be an enduring gift for someone else.
Enter Kiva. Kiva is a fantastic organization of mostly volunteers who provide micro-loans to small business owners in many poverty-stricken nations. It is a paradigm based on empowerment and enrichment not disempowerment and enslavement.
So with my children's stocking fund, we were able to help Yann Voeun, 22, a young mother in Cambodia with two children to purchase cows for their breeding business; and Romel Paulo, a father of three, in the Phillipines who needed $325.00 so he could plant his next crop of rice and corn; and Edith Agho, mother of five, who requested a loan of $1200.00 to help her start her second-hand clothing business in Africa.
The children's "stockings" helped eight people they will never meet or know achieve their dreams and become more independent and self-reliant.
So, this holiday when they reach into their stockings, they won't find chocolate covered gold coins, or wind up toy cars, or dice games. Not even coal. This year, they'll open an envelope and meet someone whose lives they were able to touch across the oceans, beyond language, and traversing culture. I think it may well be the best gift of all this year, and a new tradition I hope they will continue with their own children.