I start to feel this way around this time every year. I have a hard time putting a label on this feeling, but it is distinct. Lucky, grateful, and oh so excessive are a few emotions that play into it. The Fall always seems to breed this, with one holiday after another – lots of food and gifts abound. In my house, even more than many. We have Halloween, and then two weeks later my daughter’s birthday. Two weeks after that is Thanksgiving, and somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas falls Hanukkah (my family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas). All this adds up to create an overabundance of food and overabundance of gifts. And this always leads me to think about the majority of the world and how this is not a reality for most people. I could let this send me into a depression which during a gray Pittsburgh winter is hard to emerge from. I tried this a few times – not pretty. Or I could do something about it. But what? That is where I get stuck.
A few years back I started hosting monthly benefit brunches. I was inspired by a young, punk friend of mine who had two jobs and two young kids. She still found time to host a brunch to raise money for an organization supplying prisoners with books. I loved the idea – people getting together to eat and socialize – and donate a bit of money (just about what they might pay for the same meal in a restaurant) to go to a good cause. So I tried it. It worked so well, and was so much fun, that I decided to make it a regular event. I picked a new beneficiary each month. I got some information about the organization of the month and placed it by a collection basket. Then I invited friends over, explaining that a $10-20 donation was recommended and would go to the organization. I cooked simple foods and we had a brunch party. It was great fun, and most months we raised somewhere between $200-$500.
My benefit brunches dropped off about a year ago – busy lives and schedules. But this time of year always makes me nostalgic for them. So I am committing to hosting some more. My ‘flavor of the month’? Global Links’ Baby Bag project. And instead of, or in addition to, donating money, people can donate new baby clothes.
Global Links’ baby bag initiative was born of a conversation with the medical staff at a hospital in Nicaragua. They were interested in distributing baby supplies to pregnant women in order to encourage them to come in for prenatal check-ups and attended deliveries. In countries where the maternal/infant mortality rate is high, this is a huge step toward saving lives. In response to this, and with international partners’ input, Global Links designed a mother/baby bag program. The baby bags are sewn by volunteers, and filled with products that country partners have requested. The Baby Bags are given to new mothers after they give birth with supplies to care for their babies at home.
So, I see this as my preemptive way to ward off the seasonal blues. We can still have the food and the socializing, but do we need ALL the gifts? How about just filtering a bit of the money you might spend anyway, and while eating and socializing, put it toward a good cause this holiday season? Maybe you want to try and host something for your friends too?