• Give someone a class that they never would have bought for themselves. I have an odd dream of someday learning to play the entire E.L.O. catalog on the bagpipes but for some reason have never looked into lessons. How psyched would I be if my wife read this and sent some kilt wearing Scotsman by the house to teach me how to play “Wild West Hero” (can someone please send this to the missus for me)?
• Clean up someone’s junk mail by signing them up for a junk mail reduction service. There are plenty of companies to take care of this for you, like Greendimes, who will actually plant five trees for you while they are at it. How cool is that? Eradicate their junk mail and plant some trees in their name–two gifts in one!
• Help someone else in the name of those you care about. By supporting a cause in someone else’s name, you not only help someone else, but you involve your recipient in creating a better world, and perhaps turn them onto something they might not have known about before. We send out a holiday e-card every year and let people know that we have made a micro-loan through Kiva to someone in a developing country. These loans (as small or large as you’d like them to be) help others pull themselves out of the poverty cycle by allowing them to build businesses. We link the newsletter to the actual persons page and the following year update everyone on how we did. Since we started this, every year we have been able to write that the loan we made the previous year was successfully paid back and then invest it in the next person. It’s a great way to share the holiday spirit and involve people in something good.
• Make something. Make a painting, a sculpture, dinner, their bed–whatever it is you think they might like. This is a much more personal way to show someone you care and has the added benefit of potentially costing little to no money.
These are just a few ideas and as always, I’m interested in hearing yours. The important point in all of this is that we show those that we love how much we care about them by NOT adding to the consumption/waste cycle. Let people know that you have strayed from the norm this year (whatever that is) and let them know why. My guess is they’ll appreciate it and you all the more.