What Would Linus Do?

December 10, 2008

Emilia is three, and although this is her third Christmas, it is the first that she fully appreciates in all of its indulgent, commercial glory. Last year, when she had just turned two, it was a delightful but slightly baffling exercise in hooting at lights and puzzling over gifts (why there toy here Mama WHY?) and recoiling in terror from shopping mall Santas. This year – with the influence of Christmas-frenzied preschool cronies and her greater awareness of the holiday-saturated culture in general – she knows exactly what is going on, and it is all visions of sugar plums and fat men bearing gifts and candy canes and gingerbread and Dora Magic House dollhouses and remote-controlled race cars and can I have that Mommy will Santa bring me that Mommy can I have it Mommy CAN I???

She has embraced the holidays with all the desperate enthusiasm of an alcoholic at a whiskey fire sale, and although it is adorable, it also a little bit disconcerting.

We’ve been careful to not hype the holidays as a festival of presents and candy (we’ve been burned by celebratory excesses in candy before, and are concerned to not make the same mistakes twice). We limit her exposure to any medium that broadcasts holiday-fetishizing advertisements (TV commercials? Easy to eliminate. Shop windows and newspaper circulars? Not so easy.) We have made efforts to explain to her what Christmas really is supposed to be about – star in the east, baby in swaddling clothes, three wise men bearing gifts (what were the presents they were bringing Mommy what were they were they toys???), etc, etc – and talk about the importance of giving and of being grateful and of celebrating family and friends and everything that we are so fortunate to already have. But still, after all of this, she remains intoxicated by Christmas™, the Christmas that decks the halls with boughs of holly and Spongebob Squarepants Advent Calendars (a different crustacean for every day of the season!) and that celebrates, above everything else, the getting of stuff.

I have no principled objection to the Santa side of the holidays. I personally am a very great fan of presents. And I have the fondest memories of childhood Christmases spent huddled on the stairs, spying on the Christmas tree, waiting for Santa to appear and deposit bundles of Barbie and Lego and Eazy Bake Ovens beneath its branches. I don’t want to deprive my children of those childish pleasures, nor do I want to teach them that wanting (desiring, coveting) is in itself bad. It is, after all, okay to want things. But I do want them to learn that wanting things for oneself must tempered by – and is most pleasurable in concert with – wanting things for others, and that Christmas is only incidentally about receiving material gifts. I want them to take to heart – when they’re old enough to understand – the spirit (if not the letter) of the Christmas story with its tidings of great joy and message of hope and peace and good will. I want them to understand the lesson learned by Charlie Brown, that shiny pink Christmas trees with mounds of presents are kinda cool, but are really beside the point, and that the best feeling that one can have during the holidays is that heart-ful, love-smothered feeling that one gets when one embraces the spirit of good will and hope and love.

But in order for them to understand those things, I need to make sure that their parents are – that I am – demonstrating them. And as I stroll down the main street of our town, coveting shiny things in shop windows, or wander the virtual byways of the Internet, admiring giveaways and crossing fingers that maybe I’ll win that laptop or that iPhone or that tin of pistachios, or prepare to post such giveaways myself, it has occurred to me that I sometimes get a little bit caught up in the holiday frenzy of want want want and that maybe I should do something that is more in the spirit of walking my talk.

So I asked myself: faced with an overabundance of gifts and giveaways and assorted virtual whatnots, WHAT WOULD LINUS DO? Besides read excerpts from the Gospel of Luke, that is, which, face it, is lovely but not all that interesting once you’ve heard it six bajillion times.

And I came up with this: I’m going to (with the permission of those who send stuff) give away a portion of everything that I receive for online giveaways, by which I mean, I’m going to give it to someone who needs it more than the Internets. Specifically, I’m going to take multiples of toy-type stuff to a toy drive, and with those giveaway or review materials that are not toy drive appropriate, I am going to purchase toys in lieu of those products and Emilia and I will take them, together, to the toy drive so that they can be passed on to other, needier children and families. So that she can see how wonderful it is to give.

And because it is also wonderful to receive, I’m giving away this, to you: an iPod shuffle (green). Just leave a comment below, between now and midnight December 17th. But there’s a What Would Linus Do catch: in your comment, mention a charity or cause that you support, and (because I’m giving the iPod to the Internets, rather than to a charity drive) I’ll make a donation to that charity – a tithe of my ad revenue this month – on behalf of the winning person.

(If you have a blog, and are running giveaways, I invite you to do something similar – set aside one of those giveaways to give to a local family that might appreciate the boost in these difficult times, or take it to a toy drive, or invite your readers to comment to win a donation to a charity of their choice. If you do this, let me know, and I’ll compile the links.)

Linus would approve.

(Oh, hey – you can has buttonz! Feel free to lift the code here and post it to spread the word…

Just copy and paste this code to embed:

Thanks to the ever-awesome Motherbumper for pulling a Linus and making these sweet buttons to share.)

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    Professional Critic December 11, 2008 at 2:38 am

    Great idea! Doctors Without Borders does amazing work.


    Rebecca December 11, 2008 at 2:44 am

    We’ve supported Child’s Play for several years. One of my earliest memories was being in a hospital as a child- and standing in a room full of games and toys with my IV running to the little mobile bag cart. I got to pick a book to take back to my room for my mom to read for me and a wooden tick tac toe board to play with my dad. It brightened an otherwise terrible time in my childhood to be able to play instead of staring at the white walls or watching TV.

    Child’s Play donates toys, games, and more to hospitals around the world for kids to play with while they go through treatment.

    Zombie Daddy December 11, 2008 at 2:55 am

    If I win I’m giving this to a kid whose family is staying at the Ronald McDonald House of Stanford Hospital.

    Also, I won’t eat that kid’s brains.

    Cinthia December 11, 2008 at 5:52 am

    I donate to the Goodwill and I support programs that help Jews in need (though I’m not Jewish) but honestly, people this season need to give food. Donating to a food bank is the best thing anyone can do. A shiny new Barbie isn’t going to be any fun if you’re tummy is growling!

    Dr. Confused December 11, 2008 at 7:21 am

    The national network of abortion funds.


    Loonstruck December 11, 2008 at 8:01 am

    Libraries. Cheapest fun around but they are losing their funding everywhere. This last summer, our library had the highest circulation of library materials ever in June and then we topped it again in July. In tough economic times, people depend on us for a little escape. Not to mention, we have literacy programs for all ages. Summer Reading at our library goes from birth through adulthood. This coming summer, the theme will be art, music, theater, dance, your kids will probably learn some fantastic things if they attend programming at your library. And if you live in a large metropolitan area, don’t feel like you only have to go to your branch. Different libraries do different things and there is so much fun during the summer!

    If you pick me, I don’t need the Ipod but your local Children’s department at the library does. Summer Reading prizes can be terribly hard to come by. An Ipod would do just the trick. Thanks for this wonderful idea!

    LisaDuvall December 11, 2008 at 8:55 am

    What a great idea.

    My kids each pick a child from one of those trees set up in stores that show a child’s age and size and interests and we buy gifts for that child. The kids love it and I think it’s helping to teach them the spirit they should have this time of year (well all year really!).

    Mrs C December 11, 2008 at 9:13 am

    I like what the blog “Mon Beau Sapin” is doing. Through individual page views, a French mobile phone provider (Orange) will make a donation (depending on the number of page views) to the French Red Cross. The proceeds will go to giving gifts to needy kids. And there are a lot this year, given the nature of the times.

    The site itself is good too. Put together by French freelance comic artists.

    You don’t need to understand French to do a good turn either. Just click through:


    Nadia December 11, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Great challenge. I have three charities I like to donate:
    1. Emplilepsy foundation http://www.epilepsy.ca/
    2. Dysautonomia Foundation http://www.familialdysautonomia.org/donate2008.htm
    3. Muscular Dystrophy Association. http://www.muscle.ca/nc/ontario-nunavut/ways-to-give.html

    Wanda December 11, 2008 at 9:21 am

    That is a great idea. We normally do Toys for Tots. I take my two kids shopping and have them pick out a couple toys they would like and then we take it to the Toys for Tots box. We talk about how it will make the kids getting the toys happy and how it helps them. We also talk about why it is important to give back. We usually also do some type of food drive. Last year we did a giving tree. We picked hearts off a Christmas tree and bought presents for the kids on the heart. It feels wonderful to give back.

    Mrs C December 11, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Course…. making an actual link would make it easier for everyone: Mon Beau Sapin

    Chaos December 11, 2008 at 9:31 am

    Alzheimer’s Association, and we are starting the same tradition of giving in our family this year.

    Adventures In Babywearing December 11, 2008 at 10:06 am

    I think this is great. And I have been looking for a way to do something with the green ipod shuffle sitting here, too. Must start thinking…


    Parent Club December 11, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Our charity is East End Children’s Centre (http://eastendchildrenscentre.org/).

    It’s a free drop-in programme in Toronto for parents and caregivers.

    It was my favourite destination when my kids were in diapers and I need to get the heck out of the house.

    I volunteer for EECC, year-round, for me…for my family…for the other families who visit this wonderful place.

    Harleygurl December 11, 2008 at 11:07 am

    I do volunteering for multiple charity/non profit organizations. One is an animal welfare program (www.pcnaws.com), the other 2 are very dear to me, one is The Kansas Patriot Guard (kspatriotguard.org) and the other is The American Heart Association. I have adopted 2 military families this year to sponsor. Wether you believe in the war or not, these men and women are putting there lives onhold to do there job and protect the US. Thank you for your help with any charity you choose. You are proof that there is still people who know the true reason for the season!

    divrchk December 11, 2008 at 11:40 am

    The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. My sister has been living with the disease since she was 9 years old. She’s now 32 and has amazing control.

    Also, my kids are donating to Toys For Tots this Christmas since they are now old enough to grasp the concept of charity.

    Days December 11, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Great idea! We’re giving to the Canadian Cancer Society, as always, and this year, we’re participating in one of those Adopt-a-Family programs, as per my 7 year old daughter’s request.

    LAVANDULA December 11, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    this year instead of stockings we got 4 operation christmas shoeboxes and stuffed those full!they are donated to developing countries.and i always empty my change out into the salvation army kettles and donate used clothes to goodwill or sally ann stores.so my charity would of course be salvation army…

    Anonymous December 11, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I sponsor a women through Women for Women International though you can also give single contributions:

    Since I began to support the organization 2 years ago, I have been continuously impressed by their work and efforts. They support women not just monetarily but by teaching them life skills and about human rights.

    Jill December 11, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    March of Dimes

    My daughter was born 12 weeks premature. The MOD mission is near and dear to my heart. She survived and 4 yrs later has no lingering effects of being a micro-preemie. AMEN!

    Amy Ruth Webb December 11, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    My Henry is almost two and, like your Emilia last year, he is mostly into ooh-ing at the lights. He already enjoys thumbing through the catalogs, though I don’t think that he really gets the connection between pictures of toys and asking for toys. I try to make at least a few homemade presents for him, but we’ve been sucked into the plastic/electronic toys a bit. (Last year, it was all handmade and European wooden toys.)

    So, I wanted to make sure that he knows right from the start that this season is about giving, too. This year, we donated the money for a flock of chicks to Heifer International. It’s a great charity and kids can really wrap their head around the idea. I sewed Henry a stuffed chick and he’ll get that along with the donation card in his name. Next year, he and I will pick animals to send together.

    No Mother Earth December 11, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    In honour of my Grandma, who I still miss at Christmas each and every year, I support the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

    Two things in case you’re interested: my dad’s a minister and he used to use the Charlie Brown Christmas to teach children all the time – more accessible for them. Also, I was in Urban Outfitters yesterday, and they are selling Linus blankets – a portion of the proceeds go to charity.

    Beck December 11, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    We support Heifer International. And at a local level, we support our local food bank.

    Neo-Geek Girl December 11, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    There are so many charities that are running through my head… But since I just quit smoking (again) I am going to go with Canadian Lung Association (or American…).

    Medela December 11, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    The charity which i am associated with is for the kids that live on the streets, I won’t name it though! but your post is really very good!

    Sophie December 11, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I support String of Pearls…

    allisonwondrland December 11, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Read much, comment not so much. I like this one! Our regular charity of choice is World Vision. When our children were really young (8 mo., 3 and 5) we “adopted” a child of each of their ages, to sponsor in a third world country. We now have a fourth baby, and intend to add one more adoptee to our list. Our oldest is now 13. We’ve been blessed to follow the three “adoptees” and receive letters and cards from them, and watch them grow as our own children do. It is quite humbling, and such a reminder of how truly grateful we should be, when the tiny amount we give for each child allows them so very much that we take for granted every day.

    Have a very Merry Christmas, whether or not I receive the iPod!

    red pen mama December 11, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Geez, Catherine, I was just going to write this post today. You beat me to it. Well, minus the give-aways, because let’s face it I have about 10 readers. :) I am of almost the exactly same mind vis-a-vis Christmas with the “Christ” v. Santa. I think I’m doing pretty well with my girls so far. I’ll be linking to you in the next day or so!

    I would pick Animal Friends as my charity.


    Chantal December 11, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    You are very generous. I am a big supporter of our local food bank.

    Christina December 11, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Each holiday season we pick a different non-profit to support. This year we’re supporting Choices, a domestic violence shelter here in Columbus. They’re in need of a lot of items, including toys for the children who live there.

    We’re taking several unopened toys to them this weekend for their Christmas drive. I’ll also be giving them a bunch of sample-size shampoos/soaps/etc. – when I learned how much shelters need these simple items, I started saving all of the ones I get from staying at hotels, and I try to buy 1-2 samples each time I’m at Target.

    I also regularly support March of Dimes and Autism Speaks.

    langleigh December 11, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    As a woman and mother of a daughter, this organization deserves your consideration.
    RAINN rape abuse and incest national network http://www.rainn.org/ 1-800-656-HOPE

    merry christmas

    Tam December 11, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Durham Rescue Mission, Durham, NC

    This organization is very active in our community and does a great deal of good.

    Leesy December 11, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    We support Big Brothers and Big Sisters. One of my best friends has been a big sister for over 20 years and has really made a difference in some girls lives. Our family always tries to lend support by volunteering and financially with donations. I think you are teaching your daughter a very valuable lesson and she will appreciate it later in life.

    Kathy December 11, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    First of all. A Charlie Brown Christmas is my favourite Christmas special of all time.

    My family and I usually donate to a different charity each year at this time (for example we donated to Unicef, the year of the Boxing Day Tsunami). I was discussing which charity we would donate money to this year and my daughter and I have decided on WWF (World Wildlife Fund).

    Happy holidays to you and yours.

    Jeff and Mandee December 11, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Here we are supporting our Toys for Tots….they are super behind on donations this year because of the economy and there might be children on the list that do not get anything.


    nape December 11, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    United Way of Nebraska.

    Great giveaway. Thanks!

    Kimberly December 11, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    I would love to win so you could give the donation to my friend Kasey’s Relay for Life team. Kasey has brain cancer and he’s only 10 years old. You can read more about him here:


    If I won I would very much love to do something for his team. That would be wonderful and I would appreciate that so very, very, very much!!!!

    Thanks for a great, generous, wonderful giveaway!

    HunnyV “at” Optonline “dot” net

    oona December 11, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    We donate to the Oregon Food Bank. There is an incredible need for food this year and every little bit counts. We also play Secret Santa by adopting two families and helping make their Christmas a little brighter.

    Thanks! foxsquirrelrabbit at gmail dot com

    WM December 11, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    One of my favorite charities is Doctors without Borders.


    makeetis December 11, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    St. Judes cancer place for kids. That is something that me and my husband try to donate to at least twice a year. We don’t give much because we can’t afford it. Thanks for the chance. brewerchickey78(at)yahoo.com

    Dumaurier December 11, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    I had a cancer scare earlier this year and I read so much helpful info on the Susan G Komen website, that they’ll be my charity of choice fom now on.

    fidget December 11, 2008 at 7:44 pm


    the beta center. When i’m not needed by small chillins for milk purposes, I volunteer to wrap gifts at their mall booth to help raise fundage. One day, when my babies are grown, I’m going be a volunteer cuddler.

    Sonya December 11, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    The Green County Animal Farm

    Bebemiqui December 11, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    We donate to the Salvation Army.

    TheOtherJennifer December 11, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    We support the local youth football league; the NHSPCA; the Toys for Tots and volunteer to serve food at Thanksgiving. I tried to explain to my 7 year old about homelessness and joblessness when she asked for a can of food for the food drive at school. We try to donate year round, not just at the holidays. She said “some people don’t have homes”? So it was eye opening for her. She has a lot of things but she is very good about giving them away to other kids, including the preschool for her books, other little girls for her clothes. It’s never too early to make children aware that there are other people besides them in the world.

    If I should win, please regift it to someone more deserving than I.

    royaldixie December 11, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    I would like to donate to the Susan G. Komen foundation. Although I have not personally been touched by breast cancer, I have made it a mission to help support the cause any way possible.



    Nad December 11, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    Habitat for Humanity.

    treflea4 at gmail dot com

    Alice H December 11, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    I support the Salvation Army – especially at this time of year. Thanks for the chance! alicedemske at hotmail.com

    Dianna_Ball December 11, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Every Christmas, instead of buying cremes, and mugs, etc. for teachers, assistants, etc. – I donate to Heifer International.


    carogonza December 11, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    There is a fabulous non-profit in West Palm Beach called The Lord’s Place. I used to work there so I know they need money and donations and I know that all the money they get actually goes to helping people get back on their feet. If I win, I would love the donation to go to them.

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