For Christmas, my three little cousins are getting chickens. My aunt and uncle are getting a heifer. Don't worry - they fit easily under the tree. This year, my family shopped at our church's alternative gift market, a project of Alternative Gifts International. The church raised about $4000 for various charities represented at the market - not bad for the first year, and the woman who organized it all hopes to make it a Christmas tradition. We purchased livestock through Heifer International, an organization that seeks to end hunger by providing families with sustainable sources of food and income rather than short-term relief. Those chickens and that cow will help families support themselves and hopefully others around them as their animals reproduce.
When my mom told me about the alternative gift market, it seemed like one of the best ideas I've ever heard. It's a new and better answer to the question "what do you get the person who has everything?" - give them the gift of giving. After all, if they already have everything, it's not as though they're going to appreciate a material gift. They just may think an attractive gift card telling them they've provided clean water for a village in Africa, or a medical kit for a doctor in Cambodia, is the best Christmas present ever. And if they don't like it...well, better to give them an unappreciated gift that does some good for the world than one that languishes on the top shelf of their closet forever.
You can order alternative gifts online and either have a gift card for any occasion included or have it mailed to the person in whose honor you're making the gift. Or you can buy yourself a present anytime - nothing feels better than making a difference.