Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass is sharing an idea from one of his readers, a writer and English profressor named Virginia Brackett: "Instead of buying gifts for each other around Christmas," says Brackett, "we're going to donate that to the relief for the hurricane victims. They need so much help now. That's why we're calling it Christmas in September in our family."
Brackett explains, "It's a way for family members, for children, to talk about the disaster. And it gives us something to do. Right now, there's this feeling of desperation among so many. This gives people a way to act right now. And it also helps build bonds among family."
It's a great opportunity for teaching our children about the importance of giving, of helping those less fortunate than us. And when the holiday season rolls around and we're not running around to crowded stores, stressing about about picking out cool gifts for our friends, feeling the inevitable time pressure that holiday shopping involves—we will have the time to reflect on how fortunate we are, and how good it feels to give to people in need, when it counts most, rather than just giving fun toys to kids who have too many toys already, or a thoughtful gift to a friend who already has everything she needs. And from a purely selfish standpoint, what could be easier than making a donation and skipping the whole holiday-shopping hassle?
Some people can afford to make generous donations without having to sacrifice holiday shopping. For others, that looming $500 budget for Christmas shopping means there's $500 they can't afford to donate. Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or New Year's, or solstice, or Ramadan, or whatever) in September could free up a lot of resources to help the people affected by Katrina to start rebuilding their shattered lives.
I admire the work done by the Red Cross; in addition to their comprehensive responses to a multitude of emergency situations, they provide much-needed psychological counseling for disaster victims (I've got a relative who volunteers for them as a trauma counselor). America's Second Harvest is dedicated to feeding the hungry and the displaced. If you prefer faith-based giving, this list includes plenty of links besides Red Cross and Second Harvest.
Christmas in September. Think about it. Give what you can, and talk it up. See if you can persuade your family and friends to give your holiday gift to Katrina's victims instead.