Monday, December 3, 2007

The Reason for the Season

Most people who know me have heard me say that while I love the holiday season, Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday. I enjoy the opportunity to spend time with my family and friends without all the chaos and noise of presents and parties and expectations that you find during the month of December. Don't get me wrong - I love a good party, and Christmas Eve is still my favorite night of the year. There is something so crisp and magical in the air, and I can feel it right about 10:15pm when we're leaving the house for church, even in the middle of the desert in West Texas. I'm still bothered, though. We somehow manage to lose the basic message of the season between consumer confidence reports and debates over buying toys made in China. The ads on tv don't encourage you to buy a winter coat for someone who may not have one this year - they want you to buy a new cellphone for your spoiled 14 year old so they can make money off the impending barrage of TXT MSGS to their BFF, Jill in the coming year.

My sentiments were reinforced last night after a conversation with my 89 year old aunt about everything we're cooking for Christmas this year, our attempts to shop for presents for the 3 teenagers who will be in the house, and the disturbing increase in the promotion of materialism that has left us unwilling to set foot within 100 yards of a mall. If we're honest with ourselves, we don't really need most of the things we're given, and the same applies for many of the gifts we give to friends and family.

I'm personally a huge fan of finding a better cause to support than WalMart's bottom line and the pile of future white elephant gifts in my cousin's junk closet. That's why I'm excited about Brad Pitt's new project called Make it Right. Through this organization, he is trying to help "make right" some of the things that have gone so terribly wrong in New Orleans by focusing on rebuilding the city's cultural base in one of its most important neighborhoods. He has worked with world renowned architects and designers to create plans for affordable, environmentally sound and culturally relevant homes for New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. They have identified a target area of 150 homes in one of the most devastated parts of the city. Through grants and donations, financing will be offered to families that will cap their mortgage payments at 30% of their income and allow them a chance to move back to their city. The public can help by making general cash donations, or by participating in their interactive website that allows you to help sponsor part or all of a home.

Still looking for a great Christmas gift for your best friend? Why don't you call her and suggest that, instead of exchanging gifts, you pool your money and sponsor a $40 low flow shower head for one of these homes, or buy a few gallons of paint starting at $25? Or get a group of friends together and sponsor a $100 thermostat or $250 flooring. There's something satisfying about knowing that your contribution might help make this the last Christmas that a New Orleans family has to spend without a home to celebrate the real reason for the season.