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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    Mudpies and Mary Janes December 13, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    What a wonderful giveaway. Every year we donate unused toys to goodwill. You can also make an online donation on their website.

    Mommy Cracked December 13, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    The Southeastern Firefighter’s Burn Center:


    My grandfather died of burns way back in the 50′s, at a time when services like this weren’t available.

    Stitchin' Bitches December 13, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    MS Foundation –Lost my brother to this disease.
    Prostate cancer research — Lost my dad to this one and my husband had seed implants at the ripe ole age of 46.

    Ally2826G December 13, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. We did our first walk this year, and our team raised over $3000! We plan to make in an annual event.

    The Saunders Family December 13, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    this year we donated to the Jewish World Watch for the Solar Cookers in Africa. mom2maria at hotmail

    Jill December 13, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    I support the Robert F. Terry Jr. Foundation – Helping families while they wait for the cure



    Still Learning December 14, 2008 at 2:29 am

    I don’t even know where to begin, because I like to give local I’d have to recommend Good Samaritan a local (for me) charity if by chance I win. I also want to say I got your button because I couldn’t think of a better way of putting it other than “What would Linus do?” Thank you for this giveaway and your giving!

    Kate December 14, 2008 at 3:15 am

    ASPCA, or animal shelter in your area. All of my cats have come from shelters and they are the sweetest pets ever (well, except for the one that is NOT. But she’s a cat, what do you expect?)

    Julie December 14, 2008 at 3:24 am

    What a wonderful idea! I support the Somerville Coalition for the Homeless http://www.somervillehomelesscoalition.org/
    During these tough economic times, places like these really need our help. Thanks and Merry Christmas!

    Badness Jones December 14, 2008 at 8:35 am

    Make a Wish Foundation – ’nuff said.

    mannequin December 14, 2008 at 9:50 am

    I donate every chance I get to ASPCA; unwanted , cold, hungry , abused and homeless animals.
    As humans, we are SUPPOSED to be the caretakers. We’ve done a pretty sad job of doing that.

    petite gourmand December 14, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    First of all- 214 comments!
    You really hit a charitable nerve and thank-you for doing so.
    What an excellent idea.

    I really like Chum christmas wish


    Anissa Mayhew December 14, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    I have an Ipod already, but I’m hoping you’ll pick to give it to me because I have a friend, Natalie, who has a daughter with a brain tumor. It’s Natalie, not her daughter, that needs the IPod.

    Her’s totally crashed and burned and sad to say it was something she used a ton, especially during those long days in the clinic while getting chemo (as her daughter sleeps because she’s premedicated, she’s not ingoring the poor thing).

    I’ve been all over the place entering contests with Ipods in hopes of winning her one, so pleaseohpleaseohsmamelssplease!

    And of course, my charity of choice is the Children’s Cancer Center…www.childrenscancercenter.org

    Anonymous December 14, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    I love the baby chimps – and Jane Goodall is amazing. So, here is my vote: The Jane Goodall Institute. http://www.janegoodall.org/

    ecky December 14, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    this is great! my favorite charity is our local rape crisis center SASS in NH. they would totally appreciate this!
    elkesten at yahoo dot com

    Chag December 14, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    The Autism Society

    Reeva December 15, 2008 at 3:46 am

    we support the cure for juvenile diabetes

    Angela December 15, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Hi, I support Free the Children, thanks.

    missysoupy December 15, 2008 at 11:27 am

    I don’t celebrate Christmas (if we’re talking WWJD, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be “buy more toys for his already spoiled kids”). But I guess we’re talking WWLD here, which would probably be “donate money to provide people of the world with clean drinking water”. Check out http://www.charitywater.org or http://www.water.cc
    We Americans spend 450 BILLION dollars on Christmas every single year, while one in six people in the world lacks clean water (note that it would only take 10 billion dollars to provide the world with clean water). I think this would be something that both Linus AND Jesus could agree on.

    __Sweetheart__ December 15, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    I give to st. Judes, those commercials tear me up each time i see one..So we try to give to them as often as we can.

    hazel December 15, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    This is a pretty cool giveaway! I love the charity aspect. I support savedarfur


    Sarah December 15, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Sleeping Children Around The World

    This is a wonderful charity providing bedkits to children of any race and/or religion. The supplies are sourced locally and include such items as a mattress, blanket, mosquito net, towel, and school supplies.

    I give a bedkit donation in the name of every member of my family and it has become our Christmas tradition.

    sabbysoo at yahoo dot com

    K December 15, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    My only son is 20 months old so I’m not quite there in the understanding department, but I feel it coming. Next year should be really intersting.

    I don’t want an ipod (I have way too much stuff as it is), but I wanted to say that the donation is an awesome idea. I love that you’re paying it forward.

    We wrote our Christmas guilt check to Central Union Mission in DC. I’m also a big believer in Toys for Tots. We are trying to work in a tradition where the kids help pick out a few gifts to donate each year.

    Rock on and keep up the good work.

    Jill December 16, 2008 at 11:19 am

    The Sunshine Foundation- The Sunshine Foundation’s sole purpose is to answer the dreams of seriously ill, physically challenged and abused children aged three to eighteen, whose families cannot fulfill their requests due to financial strain that the child’s illness may cause.

    Thanks for doing this!

    The One December 16, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    American Heart Association. Go Red for Women!


    adams006 [at] hotmail [dot] com

    KelEdge December 16, 2008 at 7:44 pm


    here’s the vision statement:

    we envision a world transformed;
    a world that has been renovated by a global movement of compassion and justice
    evidenced by the eradication of needless suffering.

    angela December 17, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Ronald MacDonald House.

    MemeGRL December 17, 2008 at 1:34 am

    My current favorite (besides my old favorite, the Heifer Project) is DonorsChoose.org. My parents were both teachers so I know firsthand how excited the teachers are when their classroom dreams come true.
    For the kids, though, I stick with WorldVIsion or the Heifer Project, and also stuff through our church where we “help” Santa by adopting a family (since Santa can’t possibly do it all alone…and the kids adore the idea of helping Santa out).
    Merry everything to you.

    Leah December 17, 2008 at 3:23 am

    You are the sweetest! : )))



    Thanks so much for this fabulous give~away! : )))


    Steph December 17, 2008 at 4:26 am

    The Humane Society

    SUEB0B December 17, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Women for Women International helps women in war-torn countries learn job skills and provides education and sisterhood. Womenforwomen.org

    Kimberly/Mom in the City December 17, 2008 at 10:23 am

    My favorite blog giveaway of the season went to 2 moms in need. One received a Radio Flyer’s #46 Classic Lights & Sounds Trike. The other received a set of American Girl’s Bitty Twins Dolls.

    YOu can read about it here: http://mominthecity.com/wp/2008/10/31/mom-in-the-city%e2%80%99s-holiday-toy-guide-2008-charitable-giveaway/

    Brooke December 17, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Linus would totally give to Guiding Eyes for the Blind! They train guide dogs. guidingeyes.org

    I give money to them because my brother is blind and his guide dog gives him critical independence and saves his life every day.

    Anonymous December 17, 2008 at 11:27 am

    What a wonderful idea, one for which I can’t help but “un-lurk.”

    My favorite charity is University of Michigan’s Congenital Heart Center. They were able to remove a complicated, golf-ball-sized tumor from my one-year-old son’s heart. A year and two months later, he is doing wonderfully and, for this, I am eternally grateful.

    Kristi December 17, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Every year my daughter and I clean out her room and take any gently used toys to the childrens ward at the hospital. We also adopt a needy family every Christmas.

    My charities? The Alzheimers Association and The American Lung Cancer Association. I lost my beloved grandparents to both of these.

    Happy and blessed holidays.

    Krista December 17, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    ACLU. Because of the last 8 years…

    Jomama on a Llama December 17, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I LOVE your plan here. I hope it catches on quickly… I’ll tell me friends!
    My favorite society-improver is Compassion International.

    kujoko at att dot net

    Caroline December 17, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    I support Girl Scouts, as well as various other charities many of them through my volunteer work with Girl Scouts. But this one is nearest to our hearts right now.

    Mathis Family December 17, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    We support St Judes as my husband was a patient as a child and Komen as there is breast cancer in my family.

    Sylvia December 17, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    St Judes. Childrens Hospital

    Tracey December 17, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    There are so many worthy charities, but the Multiple Sclersis Association of America (MSAA) is one that has helped many people like me who deal with Multiple Sclerosis on a daily basis. Thanks for the great giveaway that keeps giving!

    traceys at suddenlink dot net

    ANTM December 17, 2008 at 1:39 pm


    I just held a Holiday Party complete with a Silent Auction. All proceeds of the auction went to this fabulous charity that helps families in need during the holidays. Which was awesome that we could do that…however, donations and proceeds were not as high as we anticipated so we were not able to help as many families as we would have liked.

    Thank you!

    phogrrl@aol.com December 17, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    I support our local Hospice organization. And I would love me a shuffle!

    Mommy Melee December 17, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network


    Thank you for doing this.

    Jen December 17, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Great idea! My charity ( I think it counts as a charity, since it’s non profit) is my church’s christian school. we live in one of the poorest counties in Michigan, and many of our school families struggle to pay tuition, let alone buy Christmas presents this year. If I won, I would offer one to the school to give away to a child. the school is pre-k through 8th grade.

    Anonymous December 17, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    I would choose the Salvation Army. This year my daughter’s soccer team is collecting gift items for girls in the same age range as the team, whose families could use some help this holiday season. The Salvation Army will help identify and distribute our gifts.


    lisa December 17, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This is a lovely idea, thanks.

    kotharil at gmail

    ms. changes pants while driving December 17, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    st. jude. i’m a closet jon and kate plust 8 freak, and i fell in love with the place when they visited recently. awesome place. wonderful people.

    Lee Allport December 17, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    We support Shriners Childrens Hospital. My son has clubfoot and they have provided all of our service and surgeries free.

    Lee :)
    leechrista @ gmail dot com

    Heather December 17, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    I’ve joined a Relay for Life team, so I would love for the amount to go to Relay for Life, which, in turn, goes to the American Cancer Society.

    Great idea!

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