It's that time of year again, Christmas catalogues start filling your mail box, Christmas carols are playing in the stores and you start planning what on earth you'll get everyone for presents.
I'll let you in on a secret - I find the whole gift-giving thing extremely stressful.
Going to stores full of too-many-people, walking around and around, trying to find the perfect gift, agonising over if the person will really like it or only just kind of like it. Gift giving stress tends to take away from the real meaning of Christmas.
Here is a great way to combat all those things.
TEAR is a Christian organisation that ministers to the poor in the world. One of the ways you can support them is to buy something from the Useful Gift Catalogue.
You browse the catalogue and decide what you think your loved one would like the most. A goat, or a mosquito net, or a toilet, or a women's self help group or go really crazy and get them a well.
There are 25 gifts ranging in price from $5 - $5000 (heaps of them are under $100).
You then 'buy' the gift from TEAR - TEAR will allocate your donation to one of their local partner organisations in the country this gift is from. All their local partners are 'grassroots Christian organisations who work alongside the poor in their own communities'.
You receive a card that you can give to someone. 'All cards include a picture of, and some information about, the gift you've bought. They do not mention the item's cost. They also feature a short description of TEAR Australia plus space for you to write a personal message.' Useful gifts can be purchased by anyone - you don't need to be in Australia - check out their FAQ for more info.
(phrases quoted are from the gift catalogue website www.usefulgifts.org)
I have personally supported TEAR for many years, and I know they are a reputable organisation. I know many other charities run something like this, but I like that TEAR is a Christian organisation that works with people in their own country to empower themselves. They reach out to all people in poverty regardless of religion and culture.
Useful gifts benefit us in the west by stopping excess materialism that happens at Christmas, gives our gifts meaning and helps us take a positive step towards global inequality.
And it doesn't just have to be for Christmas, Useful gifts can be used for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, or just because. Why not buy a few to have on hand for a present emergency? Or get together a group of people to raise money for one of the more expensive items.
You know what I also love? - no crowds!
TEAR website http://www.tear.org.au/
Useful gift website http://www.usefulgifts.org/