Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to come earlier each year. Though the dates remain the same, the promotions from advertisers don’t.

Christmas decorations are appearing before Halloween. Merchants couldn’t wait for Thanksgiving to end so they could promote “Black Friday,” itself beginning days and even weeks before the day after Thanksgiving.

Catalogs fill my mailbox, all promoting stuff for which I have no room and little interest. Does anyone remember what they received last Christmas, if it wasn’t a big-ticket item like a car? OK, how about five years ago? Stuff wears out, goes out of style, or is eventually discarded. “Where’s the real stuff in life to cling to?” goes the song lyric.

One answer is in a catalog worth having. It’s produced by the international humanitarian organization World Vision. Not only do they offer to construct water pipes from wells bringing clean water to villages in impoverished countries, but they also provide goats to poor families in Africa and other places that produce milk and income.

It’s not only overseas where help is needed. According to World Vision’s website, “One in five children in the United States lives in a family struggling with poverty.” How can this be in the richest country on Earth with so many social service and public assistance programs available? There are many causes of poverty, a lack of an adequate education, unemployment, underemployment, addiction, familial abuse. World Vision offers help to those in need until they provide for themselves.

How does it work? World Vision explains: “By engaging churches and organizations and providing a way for manufacturers and businesses to share excess resources with people struggling with poverty. In 2018, we were able to reach more than 4 million people, including 2.2 million children, through our various U.S. ministries.”

What could you buy or give that would have such an immediate impact on so many lives?

World Vision also has education resources. The goal is not to sustain people in poverty, but to help them reach financial independence, something especially conservatives who dislike big government should support: “At World Vision Teacher Resource Centers, they get to select free items a few times per year to stock up on school supplies, classroom materials, books, games, and incentives to keep students engaged in lessons. This ministry impacted 288,829 students and teachers at 788 schools nationwide in 2018.” How often do politicians equate true compassion with the number of people not dependent on government?

There are also traditional child sponsorship programs, some with a new twist in which the child gets to pick his or her sponsor.

The point is, what gives the most satisfaction? Is it toys for children who may already have enough, or is it changing another life, not only with toys, or money, or goats, but sending a message that another human being cares about them? Sometimes that is motivation enough for people who feel abandoned, unloved and unwanted.

Try it. I have. Even if you are doing it to make yourself feel good, that’s enough. It will do more than that for people without resources and without hope. It will make for a Christmas that is not only merrier for the giver and receiver, but it will truly be a gift that keeps on giving for perhaps generations to come.

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