As long as it's not a donation to George Costanza's The Human Fund ("Money For People"), a charitable contribution made in someone's honor is a wonderful gift. It reduces waste, helps someone/some turtle/some tree, and takes us out of our own life for a moment, as we realize how much we take for granted. It's amazing what an impact a small amount of money can have — and also how much more is needed.
The trick is, I think, matching the cause to the recipient. You want to pick a charity that they will be truly touched and excited to be helping, perhaps one they've given to in the past but don't currently have the extra funds for, or one that celebrates and protects something they love. A charitable gift is a chance to save the world a tiny bit, but it's also an excellent opportunity to show someone you really get them. You know and respect what's important to them, you love their values and passions, you're paying attention. Isn't that what we all really want?
Of course, it is possible to hit the nail a little too hard on the head. Several years ago, my dad was very concerned with the wolf situation. He has always been involved with conservation and animal rights, so when he heard about the wolf hunts taking place (in Yellowstone, I think, not too long after wolves had been reintroduced? My memory is fuzzy on the details!), he was greatly saddened. I felt the same, and decided that for his gift that year, I would adopt a wolf in his name. I signed him up, knowing a certificate, magazine, and tote bag would soon arrive at his door. But months went by and he never mentioned anything! My dad is not the type to not express thanks and enthusiasm, so I finally had to ask. He had received everything, but since he'd also adopted a wolf from the same organization, he hadn't realized it was a gift! What are the chances?! I was sorry that he must have thought I hadn't sent a present, but was proud to think I'd chosen pretty well.
Have you ever made a donation in someone's name? How did they react? Have you ever requested or been given a charitable donation? One of my very favorite comments came on my recent Idealizing The Unobtainable post: "Sunday I told my husband what I want for Christmas. I had waded through my over-stimulated senses and lists of lovely things I want and arrived at the fund account of my dear friends who are adopting. As much as my heart would sing when I look at a new piece of jewelry or a vintage something or other, my whole life is going to sing when I look at the faces of the two children she is adopting." Thank you for that beautiful sentiment, dear reader, and best of luck to your friends.
(Image: Give As You Live)