Last Minute Feel-Good Holiday Gifts

One of the beautiful/awful things about life before the Internet was that everyone could remain blissfully fuzzy about what was happening in other parts of the world. Now we see and hear it all, and with natural disasters on the rise, our economy in freefall, and people seeming to do ever-more-wretched things in the name of God or greed, the idea of a holiday shopping spree may be less than appealing.

If you find yourself, a week before Christmas, wondering what happened to your Christmas spirit, giving a present that feeds your own soul and does the world a service is a great antidote to gift fatigue. So save the gas, forget the mall, and click your mouse. Another benefit? You'll have nothing to ship or schlep, a definite plus when many of the airlines are now imposing luggage charges!

There are a zillion heartfelt gifts you can order via your computer. Here are a few particularly worth giving.

  • The Heifer Project buys animals for needy developing-world families to help them sustain themselves. Donate online (starting at $20) in someone else's name, and you can even send an E-gift card.
  • A subscription to Mother Jones, which features some of the smartest, most thorough journalism around, is only $10. It's an exciting time in American politics, and this is a great way to share the stories behind the headlines.
  • Help a nonprofit plant a tree in someone's name. TreePeople in Los Angeles has been planting and caring for trees for 25 years. Tree dedications start at $25 and a gift card will be sent in your name. Or, donate a tree to be planted by indigenous peoples (with the help of Swiss-based Aquaverde) in the Amazon for about $13. We're all breathing the same air on this planet, so it doesn't really matter where the tree gets planted — we all benefit.
  • Finally, a gift that's designed to be re-gifted! Offered by a California-based nonprofit called Charity Checks, a Giving Certificate allows the recipient to select the nonprofit organization that will receive his or her donation. Giving Certificates will send an actual Charity Check for a specific denomination (starting at $25) with a blank payee line. The recipient fills in the nonprofit he or she cares about, and the check is cashed by the charity.

Instead of increasing pollution and the gross consumer debt this holiday season, start the New Year with a dose of good karma!

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