hands-circleAlthough this time of year is about gift-giving and receiving for many people, we don’t always think about those who are very much in need all year round. As my kids are thinking about what they want for Chanukah, I’m thinking about ways to mitigate the rampant consumerism so obvious in December with a greater sense of generosity, charity, and a respect for people and our planet that is balanced all year round.

Recent events highlight the need for a more holistic approach to our personal and universal problems. Talks in my household have been as much about poverty and other socioeconomic issues as raised by the Occupy movement, as well as the inadequate promises to curb climate change made in Durban this week, as they are about planning and decorating for holiday celebrations. Coming from a place of respect and empathy, and extending the naturopathic principle of Tolle Totum (treat the whole) from the individual person to the community, society, planet and universe, we can help bring balance and healing into the forefront.
The etymology of the word ‘contribution’ best reveals this holistic, all-encompassing nature of both charity and activism. Coming from the words ‘com’ and ‘tribus’, meaning ‘add together’ and ‘tribe’ respectively, contribution can be seen as the work of building communities, both small and large.

Many individuals already incorporate a ritual of giving into this time of year. If this isn’t a practice that you and your family already engage in on a regular basis, this month is a great time to start a new tradition that you can carry through into 2012.

Set some time aside for this process – volunteer, sit on a board, help create positive change, and/or research where you want to focus your energy, money, etc… If you are looking for research, and consolidated information about organizations you are considering donating to, visit Charity Intelligence.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Children’s Book Bank – provides free books and literacy support to children in low-income neighbourhoods; a great place to drop off your gently-used children’s books
  • The Stop Community Centre – works to increase access to healthy food in a manner that maintains dignity, builds community and challenges inequality
  • June Callwood Centre – one of North America’s first centres for teen parents and their children, they offer health services, counselling, education, housing, prenatal classes and parenting groups and many types of practical support
  • Evergreen – makes cities more livable by deepening the connection between people and nature, and empowering Canadians to take a hands-on approach to their urban environments
  • Boundless Adventures – helps youth-at-risk attain their high school diplomas and provide leadership in their communities through counselling, social rehabilitation, alternative education and outdoor adventure
  • Distress Centres Toronto – provides 24-hour, year-round telephone support to those experiencing emotional distress or in need of crisis intervention and suicide prevention, as well as face-to-face support and counseling to people dealing with the effects of suicide and homicide
  • Kiva – connects people through lending and microfinancing to provide safe, affordable access to capital to those in need, helping people create better lives for themselves and their families