Ideas for #GivingTuesday

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I belong to the early morning crowd. The group that gets up at 5 and is fully functioning by 6:45. The group that is still mostly groggy while on public transit. I used to hate the silence of this group, feel alienated that everyone was in their own world in these early mornings.

Now I understand it. Now I love it. Early mornings are my best thought time. And today my thoughts are caught between the now and the eternal.

Shops began decorating for the Christmas season before Thanksgiving and now are in their full array of colors and products, golds, greens, and reds – the sparkles interrupted only by yellow “On Sale” tags. The stuff beckons. It’s so pretty. It’s got glitter and glam. It says “Buy me, you need me!” The faceless mannequins in the window dare me to refuse, beckon me with their androgynous sophistication decked in sweaters, tights, scarves, and jewelry.

But beyond the mannequins is a lighted star, placed high above the street by the city of Boston. It’s the promise of Christmas reminding me of a birth, of men who were searching for a Saviour, of an event that changed our calendar forever.

I’m struck once again by the constant battle of the now and the eternal. Beyond every mannequin is a star, promising so much more. But the mannequin is on eye level. And to see the star I have to look up.

Today, following the black of Friday and the cyber of Monday, is designated #givingTuesday. A nation needing to ease its conscience? Perhaps. But important none the less. It’s the star beyond the mannequin. The reminder that there is more to the season than the material, more to life then what we see now.


I know that you as readers have priorities of where you give and how you give. I still want to talk about three areas that are dear to my heart – women’s health, refugees, and moms and babies. The first is women’s health and the problem of fistula. I’ve talked before about this problem, about how a surgery costing $450 gives hope and a new life. Hope for Our Sisters is tireless in their ongoing work to bring attention to this problem. Brooke Sulahian – the president of this non-profit organization, has a vision and mission to bring hope to women with fistula. Your donation will not be lost in a pot of money or go to a CEO whose salary is more than many will make in a lifetime of working. Your money will go towards providing the surgery needed to restore health for the woman with fistula. The link below will take you to the website where you can easily make a donation online. Alternately they accept checks.

Donate to Hope for our Sisters


The second area that is dear to my heart is the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria. Many of you know that my husband had the opportunity to go to Gazientep, Turkey earlier this fall. It included a trip across the border into Syria and visiting a refugee camp in “No Man’s Land” between Turkey and Syria. This camp has no running water and no latrines. At last count, the population of the camp was 14,000 people, primarily women and children. There are a couple of ways you can help. The first is through making kits – hygiene, baby, education – I wrote about it here. The link to instructions for making these kits is below. There are so many ways to do this that both celebrate the season as well as move us into action. Have people over for cocoa and Christmas cookies, with a side-helping of emergency kits.

You can also purchase either Between Worlds: Essays on Culture & Belonging or Passages Through Pakistan and the royalties will go toward refugees.

Make Emergency Kits for Syrian Refugees


Another way to give toward the refugee crisis is through Heart for Lebanon. Heart for Lebanon was founded in 2006 as a natural response to the devastation left behind in Southern Lebanon after the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. In 2008 the organization began serving Iraqi refugees and has been involved in refugee work since that time. Through food distribution, schools, and health education they reach those displaced by wars in both Iraq and Syria.

Donate to Heart for Lebanon


The last place I would suggest is a maternity center in Haiti. These midwives are incredible! Every day I follow their work in Haiti. Every day I witness stories of moms being met with love and care as they go through the birth experience. Think Call the Midwife – Haiti Style. Their website says it all: Heartline’s Maternity Center exists to provide expectant mothers in Haiti with excellent maternal-healthcare. When women enter our doors they find love, support, education, medical care, relationship and respect. 

Heartline is bigger than just the maternity center, but my heart is with these moms and babies so I want to highlight it today.

Donate to Heartline Ministries – Maternity Center


There are thousands of other places where your heart may be led to give – I offer the suggestions above because they are the things that grab my heart, as well as being organizations that are small with little overhead and a huge volunteer base for the work they do. The main thing to remember is this:

When we see the mannequin, that faceless, bedazzled mannequin that beckons so insistently, may our Advent prayer be to look up and beyond to the star. 

Free Wine – Fridays with Robynn

English: Glass of Red Wine with a bottle of Re...

On a day this week when I most needed it, Robynn’s post on Free Wine arrived. I hope you will receive this as the gift that it is. Sit down and enjoy “Free Wine” by Robynn.

Lowell and I went to see All My Sons, an Arthur Miller tragedy, on Saturday night. During intermission we decided to share a glass of wine. We got in line. It’s a small community theater. The foyer is intimate, small, cozy. As we waited in line Lowell chatted with the gentleman behind him, his major professor from his graduate study days. Its small town moments like this that I love. We are part of the community.

When we got to the front of the queue I handed the bartender my credit card, asking simultaneously, “Do you take plastic?”

He shook his head with a little regret and a little joy but then he continued, “What do you want? I’ll be happy to get it for you.” I was embarrassed and a little flustered, “Oh, that’s ok.”

       “No really. I give away alcohol all the time. I’m technically not allowed to charge. This is all donation based. If you want you can come next time and leave a donation to cover it.”

Knowing myself, my memory, I shook my head, “With my forty- two year old brain I don’t trust myself.  I wouldn’t remember!”

   “Oh that’s ok. What do you want? What can I give you?”

I was flustered. The line was waiting. It’s a small space. Everyone was watching as this intermission drama unfolded.

“I’ll have a glass of red wine please.” I asked sheepishly, awkwardly.

Lowell’s professor leaned in and offered, “Lowell, what do you want? I’ll cover yours.”

“Well now you have a choice!” the bartender replied flamboyantly. At this point Lowell leaned in and whispered that he was going to the restroom. I was on my own.

The grey haired bartender began the tour of red wine choices. He described each one with poetry and enthusiasm. This one was mild and dry, this one full-bodied and rich. I tried to interrupt with a quick choice. Sure, that one, that sounds great. Thank you.

I was so self-conscious.

The bartender grabbed a stemmed glass and flew it through the air. He placed it on the table and poured the fluid red generosity into it. I thanked him sincerely and walked down the line, past the audience.

As I passed, the mom of our high school son’s friend spotted me. She reached out and touched me on the arm and said she’d pay for it.

I was flushed and flustered as I found my seat in the dimly lit theater. I blushed as I sipped my blushed beverage. Slowly. Hesitatingly. This generous glass of red wine.

Lowell joined me. He whispered in close, “You handled that really well.”We shared the wine. Savoring it. The lights dimmed and the play continued.

Later that night as I relived the play and the memory of the intermission– I was struck by the grace and generosity of it all. I was also amazed at my own reactions. I had been so unsettled. So self-conscious. So disconcerted.

But God is like that bartender.

He gives away Free Wine. He wants us to have the best, our favourite. He wants to lavish it on us with flare and flash. It’s grace! It’s unmerited! It’s extravagant and embarrassing and unnerving. And we’re surrounded by it. We receive it; we extend it to those around us. This is amazing grace!

“Is anyone thirsty?
Come and drink—
even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the finest food.

“Come to me with your ears wide open.
Listen, and you will find life.”

Isaiah 55:1-3