Dec 11, 2007

Gifts of Time: Volunteerism and Dates with Friends

I love gifts of time for holidays and birthdays. My sister gave me a hike and picnic date for my birthday. I get to pick the hike and she'll bring most of the food. I like these ideas because it means that we're gonna spend some time together! Erica knows what I like, so she made the gift about me, but also something she can enjoy too.

If you have a good idea of the sort of entertainment that your friend likes, you might support the arts with your gift of time. Tickets to dance performances, gallery openings, plays, music shows can all be fun. It can also be a bit restricting if there's a date attached so keep that in mind. My sister gave me a "night of art and culture" last year. I got to choose the event so we went to see an one man play called "Tings De Happen". It was amazing and it was also the only play I saw all year, which means that I might not have seen any if not for Erica's gift.

Along the same lines, you could make a date with friends or family to volunteer together. Maybe choose something that allows you to converse and enjoy each others' company. Of course, I recommend volunteering in habitat restoration, which is a good way to get some exercise, fresh air, and knowledge of a park near you. But food banks can be fun, serving meals, beach clean ups, or just picking up the trash on your block. Most of these are opportunities that individuals can plug into without prior experience for one time commitments. Post a comment if you have other volunteer ideas along those lines. Sometimes I think folks aren't involved because they don't know how to get involved.

Similar to Cap'n'Trade Christmas, if your gift recipient is far away, volunteer for a cause dear to him/her in your own town. Demonstrate that you know the person to whom you're trying to show your love. Send a card for the holiday explaining what you're doing. And send one as follow up when you've done the work. The time you've taken to think about the gift, write the card, take the action, and write again will be much more enjoyable to you than driving or even biking to a store, fighting crowds, standing in line, and paying your credit card bill a month later.

Like a hike date, volunteer gifts won't cost either you or the recipient a dime. Instead of producing an ecological impact or a financial impact, you create a positive impact on a community or ecosystem as well as on your friend. Who needs a mall?

Dinners are also good, of course. People gotta eat. If you want to continue thinking ecologically w/ a dinner gift, make it vegan/vegetarian, a small, local business, and a place that buys most of its food from local farmers. Gift certificates for dinners are nice too, if you live too far away to give a gift of time. Maybe the last time you visited your brother, he took you to a place you remembered. Show him that you remember that experience by sending him there again.

These sort of gifts require thought, as do many environmentally conscious acts. But thoughtless gifts are worse than no gift at all.

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