Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's Here Again...

The holiday season again... I like this cheerful season, but it doesn't cheer me up at all this year. I don't even feel like celebrating. It is said that time for giving, but what does it truly mean nowadays? Every year, stores get busy after Christmas with people who return or exchange received gifts they don't like. Some people even say they would re-gift what they received with no hesitation. Does this gifting custom still retain its original meaning?

Last month, I went to Japan. On the flight to Tokyo from LA, I had a little chat with the guy who sat next to me. He told me that he was going to Manila for his family's funeral. 15 hours later in Kyoto, I learned the Typhoon Haiyan was heading to the Philippines. A couple days later, the news showed the damage of the typhoon with the number of the deaths found at that point, they weren't even sure the number of the missing. The images reminded me the Tsunami in Fukushima. I thought of the guy. I assume that he couldn't even fly to Manila from Tokyo, and probably he had no option but flying back to LA. The timing saved him. If he had flown the day before, ... I'm not even sure if this should be called a luck. He was supposed to attend the funeral and see some of his families, relatives and even friends there. What actually happened to him was learning uncertainty of them far away from the country. He must have felt so helpless on the top of his great concern to his loved ones in the Philippines. I hope he'd find out about them, and more importantly that would be good news.

The Philippines government is trying to restore electricity by Christmas Eve. That will be a wonderful Christmas gift for them in the devastating situation. It needs some more steps, but power could bring more sense of security to them even with lights in the dark. To those who live in makeshift shelters, feeling safe is fundamental to empower them to focus on restoring their lives.

The event has been making me think of helping others in need more seriously. We can find so many places to send our support through the Internet. Some are struggling after natural disasters. Others are struggling constantly for other reasons. The latter tends to be forgotten.

Two decades ago, I heard about a small farming village in Isaan, Thailand. It was and still is a very poor village though people are hard working. No matter how hard they work, they get normal harvest once five years because of the region's poor soil. Only once five years. To support families, women go to cities for prostitution. Their parents know, and their husbands know what those women do in cities.

I guess they've got to the point they cannot afford to invest to change the situation by themselves, but just survive the moment since their poverty has been going on in generations. Something's got to be done. Nobody deserves a life like this. I found Heifer International. Support through this organization could shift the wind in such areas.

Their programs are designed to support lives of people in need for long term. You can pick what you are going to contribute such as clean water, irrigation systems, farm animals, trees, and etc. Here is how it works. Let say, one of their programs gives a goat to a farming family in need. The family keep the goat. They take care of her. The goat would bring a couple of things to the family:

  • They get fresh milk for better nutrient, and sell extra to generate income.
  • They make cheese from the milk to sell.
  • They sell wool.
  • They make fertilizer from her waste to encourage more crops.
A goat brought to the family could support their independent. She could make it possible they make their living by themselves. If they save some money after while, they might be able to get another goat or some chicken for eggs to sell. There are hopes and possibilities.

The program reminds my neighbor, Shirley, who is from a farm in Vermont. She told me that she took care of chicken at the farm when she was young. That helped her to save enough to go to college in Boston. You never know ducks, chicken, rabbits, pigs or camels you might bring to them could do. You're not just helping them for food for one day. It is exciting to imagine how their lives could change by your support.

Christmas is a couple days ahead. If you're still not sure what to give for your family and friends, how about giving gifts with your loved ones' names to people who are in need somewhere in the world? You give a gift to somebody you know, and the person who receive your gift also gives a gift to somebody who are in need. Then, the somebody could give a gift to others in the future. It's a chain of gifting. How awesome is that? This gives me a good reason to celebrate Christmas. It certainly cheers me up. I'm celebrating the future of people who receive my gifts.

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