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Last Christmas, I offered an alternative for those of you who need to get gifts for people in your life you don’t like, including in-laws, bosses, annoying co-workers, relatives you see once a year… the list goes on and on. That plan seemed to go over pretty well with many of you. You didn’t have to tell your dear Aunt Helen that she actually received the back end of her pig. But you could smile knowing that not only did Aunt Helen actually like the gift, but because of your donation, a family that Heifer works with is a little bit closer to being free from the chains of hunger and poverty.

For whatever reason, I’m totally Grinching it up this year. It is so exhausting, right? Surely this isn’t just me. Buying for people you barely know. Buying for people you do. Spend spend spend, wrap wrap wrap, clean clean clean, cook cook cook, drive here, Christmas party there, bad covers of carols on the radio, weight gain (I know I’m not the only one), Christmas gatherings at work that deserve their own Saturday Night Live skit… and don’t even get me started on secret and dirty Santa. When did Santa become secret and dirty?

Sometimes it is truly difficult to rise above the fuss. I’m tired. I tolerate am happy for those of you who love the boughs of holly and cheer and spend hours decorating your homes and cooking gingerbread and singing carols and hanging mistletoe. But I just want to crawl into a cave until it is all over, brush the residual glitter from my clothes and move on to 2015. I’m tired of the commercialism. I hate Black Friday and Small Business Saturday and Sofa Sunday (what?) and Cyber Monday… good grief, must we have a name for every day after Thanksgiving to remind us to spend? Apparently we do, because we do.

I’m sure you know what is coming (this being a Heifer blog and all)… but honestly, the only real ray of holiday sunshine I feel is this: when I forget all the commercialist crap and do Heifer gifts for my peeps (that I like and dislike), I kill three holiday birds with one stone. First, I don’t have to move from my phone or computer to make the transaction (…like if I was in a cave). Second, Heifer does the wrapping for me with its amazing honor cards. And third, it truly allows me to rise above and find a way to embrace the spirit of the season through real, meaningful giving. Where it actually means something genuine to someone who needs it. Where my gift of a sheep or goat or cow or chicks makes a difference in someone’s life. Where my petty first-world-problem complaining can be put into perspective.

Thanks to Heifer and its alternative gift options, I’ve found some warm truth and a path to holiday cheer through giving. I think my favorite Christmas cohort sums it up best:

“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”



Jessica Ford

Jessica Ford serves as the Global Communications Manager for Heifer International at its headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas. Ford joined Heifer in 2007 and soon transitioned into the executive office as Manager of Operations and Assistant to the COO. In 2012, she was relocated to Heifer's country office in Peru, as part of Heifer's first leadership development program giving her the unique opportunity to dive head first into Heifer's work "in the field" for a year. Now she is in Arkansas with her family where she loves watching her son play baseball, reading, rowing crew and drinking Dr Pepper.