Define “Necessity”

Watch out. This is going to be a serious one.


About 10 days ago I was creeping on facebook and came across this photo:


To say it has haunted me is… well, an understatement.

I shared the photo myself and a friend wrote this note back:

“I was all set to go Christmas shopping (yet again) and then saw the “define necessity” post you made this morning. It’s not often the Holy Spirit says “have a seat,” but it was definitely one of those moments. – It didn’t just gnaw at me all day; it repeatedly bit large chunks out of important parts. Instead of going shopping, I went through the World Vision gift giving guide and when the kids came home, we decided to buy a goat and some chickens and whatnot to help out needy families in another country. Isn’t it amazing that God can use something as simple as a Facebook post to accomplish great things?”

Let me be clear – I want my kids to have an awesome Christmas. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving them something to look forward to on Christmas morning.

But when I read $700 is the average amount people are spending on Christmas gifts per person this year (based on Black Friday projections) I feel a little sick to my stomach.

You see, I’ve been to Vietnam, where a family lives on our equivalent of $20 a month.

I’ve seen the shanty towns in South Africa where women are terrified their young daughters will be raped one day because local superstition is a man infected with AIDS can be cured by “being with” an “untouched” girl.

I know the stories of whole communities dying because they don’t have clean water.

And I know each of the scenarios could be solved, the emotional and physical poverty could disappear with a fraction of that $700 we’re averaging per person for gifts.

Here is a list of organizations (in no particular order) you could divert a bit of your Christmas purchasing money toward. I dare you to do it. I guarantee it will be more practical and effective than a new iTouch or a tool chest.

1. Sevenly. Through selling the “T-shirt of the week” they fund other organizations. Last week they sold the coolest T-shirt… the revenue went to trafficking victims (little girls) in Nepal.

2. Edesia, a nonprofit in Rhode Island. They produce Plumpy’nut — a miracle food for starving children. Plumpy’nut was invented by a French doctor in the 1990s. It is made of peanuts and other natural ingredients, and is high in all needed nutrients. It’s incredibly efficient to deliver in poor countries, because it lets the parents treat the child at home. Organizations like Doctors Without Borders are fans.


The best way to envisage Plumpy’nut is to imagine a soft packet of peanut butter paste. Each packet costs 33 cents to make — about a third the cost of a chocolate bar in your local store. A box contains 150 packets — enough for three portions a day for seven weeks. That’s enough to take a starving child from death’s door back to normal health.


3. The Hunger Site. Just clicking through their site provides income to feed people around the world, shopping and purchasing items through them makes your money go even further.


4. Trade as One. Their mission? To use fair trade to promote sustainable business and break cycles of poverty and dependency in the developing world. We all have a conscience. We want to make sure people get the chance to use it when they shop.


5. World Vision. You could buy a goat for a family. And that little nanny-goat could provide a piece of hope for that family that cannot be understood by our privileged minds. Besides, who would like to say, “I gave chickens for Christmas?”


6. TOMS. TOMS has established credibility over the years by donating one pair of shoes to fight poverty for every pair sold. They’re expanding their offerings… and you can help.


7. Divine Chocolate. Chocolate that makes a difference. Can there be anything better??



8. 147million orphans. A company started by two moms with some cool products.


9. Hello Somebody. All the money raised on this website goes to feed/educate the street boys in Rwanda. Their mission is to feed and educate children, by providing an avenue of knowledge, in order to break the cycle of poverty and hunger within their generation.


10. Change Your Own World. There are ways we can be a part of people’s lives right where we live. Our local grocery is selling frozen turkey’s for $.59/lbs. Could you spring for another turkey to donate to your local shelter? How about the family down the way who just lost a job? Maybe you could prepare some dry goods for Crock Pot meals. Beans, celery, cans of tomato and potatos aren’t that expensive.


There are a thousand ways you can change the world if you think about it. I fell in love with the ideas from this article, 10 Small Ways To Make The World A Better Place. Why don’t you try doing three or four of his suggestions?


These are just a few ideas – I’d love to hear of more from you about in the comments!

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3 thoughts on “Define “Necessity”

  • December 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    We always sit down as a family and vote on how to give to others at Christmas time. This year it’s world vision, a toy drive for the hospital and adopt a family. One year for an extended family party we brought a toy that represented us in some way. We then opened them & guessed who brought it. The toys then all went to the hospital and no one went home with things they don’t need. The best gift exchange we’ve had yet

  • December 13, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I love Kiva, an organization that makes loans to help others make a living for themselves.

    You can loan $25 to a person from around the world, and when it is repaid, loan the same $25 to another person. The entire $25 goes to the person requesting the loan. Contributions to help run the organization are collected separately, if you so desire to donate.

    I also adore Heifer International, an organization that provides animals and training to families in need that will in turn give them a source of income. They also pass along at least one of their animal’s offspring to another family in need. A gift to Heifer International keeps on giving.

    Thanks for the reminder. It is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the Christmas season and forget about those who are less fortunate than we are.

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