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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    Karen December 11, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    For the next 24 hours, I’m donating 50¢ to the Women’s Lunch Place for every comment I get on my latest post.

    bocktalk December 11, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Northwest Adoption Exchange (www.nwae.org) is my fav charity! :)

    Lindsay December 11, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    I am too shy to give up my anonymity for my charity, but it is for my BC elementary school which is a small Catholic school which doesn’t qualify for the funding that public schools get despite having accredited teachers and following BC curriculum.

    I won’t qualify for your tithe, which is a ok with the abundance of worthy causes listed here, but I just want to acknowledge my hella great elementary school.

    Moo December 11, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    We support a few charities but the one closest to our hearts is St. Judes. My 12 & 10 yr old sons collect spare change throughout the year and donate it all to St. Judes at Christmas.

    Jennifer December 11, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    What a generous giveaway! I'd be thrilled to win, but even more thrilled to have a contribution made to the American Cancer Society.

    Thanks for the chance to win & for your generosity!

    Farrah December 11, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    We support World Vision- a wonderful way to help needy children around the world.
    Thanks so much for sharing and giving so generously.

    valerie2350 December 11, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    samaritans purse

    Elizabeth December 11, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Wonderful idea. I’d give a donation to PACE (People Against Childhood Epilepsy), an organisation that I helped found many years ago when my daughter was diagnosed with a severe seizure disorder. We’re having our biannual benefit in NYC this February, and it’d be nice to open it up to more donors!

    socmama December 12, 2008 at 12:08 am

    What a lovely idea! Thank you. I would donate to Habitat for Humanity.

    Stacy December 12, 2008 at 12:38 am

    We donate to a the local harvesters here in KC.


    Aura December 12, 2008 at 2:15 am

    What a generous giveaway. It’s really nice that you’re starting young in teaching your daughter to give. I lost my 3 1/2 year old son to a congenital heart defect so I hold Little Hearts, Inc. (littlehearts.org) very close to my heart. The support they gave helped me through my pregnancy and the 3 following years through hospitals and surgery is unmeasurable. They helped keep me sane when I thought everything was lost. They really deserve everyones support.
    aahaft at gmail dot com

    Anonymous December 12, 2008 at 2:55 am

    I’d just like to put in a plug for my favourite charity: The Children’s Medical Foundation. They are a Hong Kong based charity (but with ties to Canadian hospitals) that sets up NICU beds in semi-rural hospitals in China that don’t already have them. They have lowered infant mortality rates by an average of 52% and by as much as 85% in the areas in which they operate. On average, each NICU bed saves the lives of 400 children per year. As all 3 of my children required stays in the NICU at birth this charity particularly resonates with me and would I think with a lot of other people.

    On an entirely different subject – your writing is wonderful. I have enjoyed lurking around here for a long time.

    To Think is to Create December 12, 2008 at 5:14 am

    Oh love this, girl! I have a few more giveaway’s coming up and will do this. My oldest would love the shuffle!

    Our charity of choice right now is Generation Rescue, who help with research and awareness for autism. My three sons are all autistic, so it’s more than just a passion, it’s a necessity.


    Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah December 12, 2008 at 7:09 am

    I am in charge of a “giving tree” at our preschool We collect mittens, hates, new underpants and small gifts for children in need.

    pami22 December 12, 2008 at 8:14 am

    great concept….this is a great giveaway..
    I try and help out the Ronald Mcdonald house in Jolin, MO. my cousin had a premmie with lots of trouble and they put her up there its a wonderul place for those in need…..


    Mrs. Incredible December 12, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Heartline for Haiti

    Five of our children are adopted from Haiti.

    Anonymous December 12, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Greyhound Welfare! Wahoo!

    Heather December 12, 2008 at 10:26 am

    World Vision is a good cause.
    I like that they give supplies to
    3rd world countries. I am going to replace some of my presents this year with donations in that persons name.

    chris December 12, 2008 at 10:32 am

    I have two fav charities .. the first is March of Dimes because they help so many babies and Breast Cancer awareness!

    Mrs. Csirke December 12, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Farm Sanctuary. They rescue farm animals that have been left for dead or have escaped trucks going to slaughter. They also do a lot of education and advocacy. A wonderful group.

    Jenn December 12, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Oh, you are kind AND genius.

    My girls held a bake sale in front of the house when I told them there were two animal shelters in the area: one that is lovely and gets a lot of traffic, and another which is broken-down and sad and has more trouble getting their dogs and cats adopted.

    They delivered the proceeds ($15) in person to the second one, where the head of the shelter nearly wept.

    Every area has a down-and-out animal shelter that’s struggling. We have two rescued dogs, so these hidden shelters are close to our hearts. Ours is: http://www.pittsfieldanimals.org/ but oh, they are everywhere.

    Patois December 12, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Wow! You rock! What a great idea. We’ve been donating food and toys and such to a local organization in our town and to the Marin Food Bank.

    Megan Lynn December 12, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    We support a local Children’s home. This year we did a Christmas drive through my MOMS club, but we donate to them on our own each year. I took my son with me, even though he’s only 18 months old. I look forward to when he’s old enough to help me shop for these children and deliver the toys, clothes and necessities that they need.

    Laura December 12, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    This is such a great idea! Very creative, and very giving. Thank you.

    A charity I support is CancerCare for Kids.
    laurachilton {at} hotmail.com

    RuthWells December 12, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Great idea!

    My favorite charity is the PKD Foundation (www.pkdfoundation.org) — the only foundation in the world dedicated to funding research for and patient eduation around polycystic kidney disease, a genetic sydrome which causes kidney failure in roughly half of all patients. One in 500 Americans suffer from PKD, and the NIH only funds research at about $60 per patient per year. 83% of the PKD Foundation’s budget goes to program services and research grants, which is a stellar record.

    As you may have guessed, I have a horse in this race — my 12 year old son was the third in our family to be diagnosed a few years ago. I am hoping for a cure before he starts having health issues.

    EarthyMama December 12, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    I support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In honor of all the kids fighting leukemia, I'll be running a half marathon (13.1 miles) in May. More information (and donation form for my personal goal) can be found here: http://pages.teamintraining.org/nnj/nj09/vmaire

    Anonymous December 12, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Love the blog, love your honesty, love the Linus comments!

    My charity is the Minneapolis Crisis Nursery. It provides shelter for children whose parents need a mental health break to prevent abuse, or to help, for example, a single mom who needs to be hospitalized and has no one to help her not have her kids go into foster care.



    The Ex December 12, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Yeah, I’ve got to go with Ronald McDonald House. They do amazing work and I’d be so happy to support them.


    moushka December 12, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    After my daughters best friend Greg was diagnosed with ALL Luekemia at age 4, I have donated to the Make A Wish foundation. His cancer is now in remission (he is now 6), but since it’s still life threatening he gets to choose a Make A Wish. He will be going to Disney World, but it’s pretty expensive going from WA to FL. Every little donation in his name helps to fulfill his wish.

    Dee December 12, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Normally my choice would be a donation to Susan Komen Foundation, but this time of year I would love to see a little extra in the Toys For Tots bin. The thought of any kid not getting a little something for Christmas makes me so very sad.

    Carolyn December 12, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    What a fantastic thing to do! I think I would go with The Spring Of Tampa Bay. It is an organization committed to helping abused wives and children.

    thanks so much for sharing

    ceashark at aol dot com

    carolyn s

    Sharla December 12, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this post! I love this time of year! My favorite charity was actually started based upon one of my favorite books: The Christmas Box. The charity is called The Christmas Box International and here is their mission: “The Christmas Box International’s mission is inspired by the book The Christmas Box, the spirit and message of which symbolize the beauty and importance of love for children. The Christmas Box International partners with local, national and international communities and groups to prevent child abuse and to improve the quality of life for children who have been abused or neglected. Each Christmas Box House serves as a one-stop assessment center for abused and neglected children, from infants through children at the age of 18. Children in our care receive mental, emotional, and physical care in a home-like, loving environment.” Thanks for the great giveaway!

    the schros December 12, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks for the generosity!
    I would choose the charity Lifesong for Orphans- started and run by people I know, I love what they do connecting and helping adoptive parents to beautiful children!

    Jacquie December 12, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    For the last 4 years we have sponsored a child thru The Plan (formerly FosterParent Plan)

    Karen MEG December 12, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    You are so bad, you’re awesome.

    What a wonderful idea, and just what I needed to read to get me more into the Christmas spirit.

    I also don’t need the iPod. We’ve sponsored a child in the Plan for 8years as well. Other charities we give to are the MS Society and the Alzheimer’s Society.

    Sherry G December 12, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    we like to support a great local organization called “new avenues for youth”. we also give to savedarfur.

    disarray at onebox dot com

    samsakara December 12, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    I know it’s not much but I always give my kids clothes to people that need them. Recently I gave a ton of clothes to three families who shared one house that burnt down. They had lost everything and my kids clothes were about the sizes of some of there kids. I also had a few toys of my sons along with some slippers and boots that I gave them. I wish I could have done more for them but I figure every bit helps.


    Melanie December 12, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Heifer International, and the local Betty Chinn-http://www.bettysblueangel.com/

    thelaclairs at yahoo dot com

    Betsy December 12, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    this is great. thanks.

    american cancer society.


    Irishkel December 12, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    First Book
    1319 F St NW
    Suite 1000
    Washington, DC 20004

    First Book is a nonprofit organization with a single mission: to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. As a librarian, I think this is so important!

    Hannah December 12, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Habitat for Humanity.

    Great idea!

    megankortepeter December 12, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    Prevent Child Abuse America

    EllyBean December 13, 2008 at 12:12 am

    We support African New Life Ministries.


    Kelsey December 13, 2008 at 12:59 am

    I faced this too with my kids. I decided that at 3 and 1 they weren’t really old enough to understand giving away toys (although we have been giving away all of our old clothes and do plan on going though all our old toys to the Goodwill) but to help them kinda understand the whole giving thing this Christmas, we decided to buy pet food and bring it to the Humane Society and then let them meet the pets that they will help feed for Christmas (they’re not old enough to get one yet).

    P.S. Please do not pick mine, I already have one and do not need it so if you pick me, please pick someone else. Thanks :)

    crystal December 13, 2008 at 1:31 am

    I enjoy reading and learning about St.Josephs Indian School.Their donation envelope is on the top of my pile this year,although i have to wait till after the holidays this time:)
    Thank you!!


    Shannon December 13, 2008 at 10:38 am

    We support of the March of Dimes.
    My son is a former 28 weeker.

    Dee December 13, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    The company that I used to work with used to help ST. Judes and I continue to do that! Cancer is hard! We also adopt families!


    raych December 13, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    There’s an orphanage in Bang Saen, Thailand, for HIV+ kids called The Abundant Life Home, that has just recieved official charity status. I lived there one summer a few years ago, and those kids are the most loved and most loving people I’ve ever met.

    Sheri December 13, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    What a great idea, and a great giveaway. We support our local food bank, the angel tree at church, and Catholic Charities.


    jag December 13, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    I support Second Harvest and Toys for Tots. If I am chosen to win the iPod, could you please donate it to Toys for Tots? They always need appropriate gifts for tweens.

    Thanks for reminding us all what the holiday season is really about!

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