Send Your Kids to College, Keep Your Money at Home
A LESSON IN GIVING MY EVOLVING UNDERSTANDING OF CHRISTMAS
My personal relationship with Christmas has gone through three stages now. First, as a boy, the holiday largely revolved around the question of what Santa was going to bring me. I still remember being over the moon the year I unwrapped a beautiful cap rifle, complete with intricate scrollwork. That thing probably cost my parents $20, which was a pretty penny by 1970s standards. The second stage came when I had children of my own, and it was my turn to step into Santa Claus’ boots. My younger self wouldn’t have believed it, but it was even more joyful and exciting to be the one giving gifts rather than receiving them. Now that my kids are older, part of me misses taking part in the magic and mystery of getting those presents wrapped and under the tree every Christmas Eve. But it’s the third and final stage of my journey that I find most rewarding. These days, while I still give gifts to my family, I find it equally important to give back to the community. So this time every year, you can find my brother and me ladling out soup at the George R. Brown convention center. While he and I look forward to this every year, we know there’s only so much good two extra hands in a soup kitchen can do. That’s why our family also donates to Heifer International, spreading what love and comfort we can on a global scale.
Heifer’s home base in Arkansas contains what they call their Global Village. This site features model homes representing the places in the world they aid, from a Southeast Asian stilt house to an Appalachian cabin. The structures aren’t just for sightseeing, however. These homes have livestock and crops just as an actual subsistence farming household would. Visitors can opt to stay in these dwellings for several nights, getting a feel for what it’s like to truly live in third- world conditions. Our church first introduced my family and me to this truly one-of-a- kind experience. After I heard about it, I volunteered as a chaperone for the trip and have done so for many years since. All of my kids have had the Heifer experience. Let me tell you, you’ve never bonded with your family until you’ve tried to milk a goat together. As someone who has been stationed in the Soviet Union and who is a big believer in experiential learning in general, I cannot overstate the importance of this program. It’s one thing to conceptualize the fact that folks in other parts of the world in other circumstances have it worse than us; it’s another thing entirely to step into their shoes, even for a few days. When I was young, I only thought about what gifts I would receive this time of year. Having kids of my own made me appreciate just how powerful giving to your own family can be. But experiences like this one through Heifer International made me realize the importance of giving to folks you will never meet in places you’ll never be. In the day-to-day bustle, it’s easy to lose sight of just how incredibly fortunate we really are. What better time than the holiday season to pause and reflect on how we can do our part for those in need at home and abroad.
“Let me tell you, you’ve never bonded with your family until you’ve tried to milk a goat together.”
For those who don’t know, Heifer International is a nonprofit that works to eliminate hunger here in the U.S. and around the world. Unlike other organizations, Heifer was founded on the idea of providing people with holistic, self-sustaining aid, such as livestock. It began as an effort to provide young cows to agricultural families in need. In fact, Heifer also helps those from more privileged backgrounds understand the plight of those in less fortunate circumstances.
From all of us here at The College Money Guys, happy holidays!
–Bra nnon Lloyd
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