Yes, you can give goat poop for Christmas. Or the most iconic fridge photo ever. And the crazy thing? These gifts will actually change lives.
Here are the top five Christmas gifts of 2017 that may surprise you (and spoiler alert: most are available at World Vision’s Give-back Gift Shop!).
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1. Goat poop
Give a goat for heaps of life-changing poop
As a kid, I had a very unique childhood fear — goats. There was a particular goat in one of the Little Golden books that I didn’t like for some reason. My family used to say, “Shhhhhhhh. Listen, Shaun, can you hear them?” “Who?” “The goats. I can hear them! They’re coming for you!” And my little 2-year-old self would scream and run away, and the offending party would get in big trouble with Mom. That is, until Mom thought it was funny enough to try it out for herself.
Fast forward to today, and I think goats are the absolute best. Their photos are all over our office. I’ve been to the field and seen how they change lives. We’ve even hosted tiny baby goats wearing diapers (awwwww) at Sunday school.
But my favorite thing about goats is that they are an amazing source of organic, locally sourced … poop. Or “fertilizer” as farmers call it — conditioning the soil by adding nutrients and improving its texture so that the ground uses water more efficiently. Plus, goat poop is drier than a lot of other manure, making it way easier to spread. All of this adds up to bigger and better vegetable gardens and crops for families in need around the world.
Another fun fact? A goat delivers up to 16 cups of milk a day. That’s an entire gallon — can you believe it? And when the herd multiplies, so does a family’s income.
2. This bracelet with the best backstory
Win your Secret Santa exchange, and make the world a better place
Every Christmas, we do a charity Secret Santa exchange with my wife’s family. My go-to has always been the World Vision Gift Catalog, because there’s something in there for everyone, and it’s easy and quick for last-minute people like me. It has education gifts for teachers like my sister-in-law, water gifts for the handy person in my life (my wife is my personal Bob Vila), and health gifts for my mother-in-law, who was a nurse. But if I draw any of their names again, I will need to mix it up this year.
In swoops the Hope Bracelet by Patricia Heaton. Patricia designed the piece exclusively for World Vision, and it comes with a great backstory. Each one is handcrafted in India by artisans like Shaista Parveen, and making these bracelets changes their lives for good. Thanks to the fair wages that Shaista is paid, she now makes as much as her husband, and together they can afford better housing and education for their entire family.
All in all, you can be proud to give this bracelet, knowing it represents the success of hardworking women like Shaista!
3. The iconic fridge photo
Teach your kids about gratefulness with this one photo
No fridge is complete without the iconic fridge photo. You know what I’m talking about. A cute kid from another country that your whole family can rally around and pray for … your sponsored child! And if you don’t have an iconic fridge photo, this Christmas is the time to choose one.
Why Christmas? Because we all want our children to be grateful for what they’ve been given. And sponsoring a child is a great way to show them, by example, how to love others and be generous, passing on what they’ve been blessed with. Less “gimme gimme” and more “here ya go.”
Our fridge photo comes with a story about my daughter, who was born with very large holes in her heart. We were told that she’d need open-heart surgery at three months. Our world stopped, and we prayed. Then, at three months, we were told that she would be eligible for a much less invasive procedure. But when we met with the surgeon he told us he didn’t recommend going through with even that. Why? Because she looked too healthy. Tests showed that her heart was healing — God was on the move. Today, she is 9 months old and on track to either have the holes close up all the way or to have a minor procedure when she’s 4 or 5.
My wife and I were so overwhelmed with gratitude that we wanted to spread this goodness to another. So we decided to sponsor a child as a way of saying thanks to God for the health of our girl — by investing in the health of someone else’s girl.
I went on worldvision.org and searched for a girl the exact same age as our daughter. Only one popped up. It was meant to be! Samanta from the Dominican Republic. Now her photo is on our fridge, right next to my daughter’s highchair. It serves as a daily reminder to pray for Samanta and to use her story to teach our older kids about God’s love for a bigger world.
4. A high school diploma
Give access to clean water that allows kids to go to school
Okay, so you aren’t technically giving out the diploma — these smart students will be earning that for themselves. And you’re not even technically giving them school — you’re providing clean water. But the beautiful chain reaction that is access to clean water can open up the doors for kids to attend school in the first place! And I’m married to a teacher by trade, so this is a big one for me personally.
How does this all work? Well, access to clean water gives kids two big things. The first is the gift of time. Girls are spending hours walking a long way for water instead of tackling the next math problem. And second, this water they are spending all this time getting isn’t even clean! So even if they do have the time to go to school, the organisms and disease found in the dirty water gives kids crippling diarrhea and other illnesses that keep them sick and home from school for long stretches of time.
My own kids have had their share of tummy problems, but nothing like this. The occasional bug will lay our whole family low, but it’s not stealing my children’s education. That’s why I get fired up about clean water. These kids halfway around the world are just like my kids. They are goofy. They are serious. They like to play. They fight with their siblings like an old married couple, yet defend them against others. And they all deserve their shot to do well in school.
That’s why clean water is the gift that truly gives back. It gives back time. It gives back health. It gives back school. It gives back a kid’s entire future!
5. Things we take for granted
Give a hygiene kit to help a U.S. family after a disaster
I’m not a big camper, but I’m trying to do it more now that my kids are getting older. And I always say that my favorite part of camping is when you come home and finally get clean for the first time in a few days. I am never more appreciative of those little things than in that moment. Then within a day, I’m already taking all of it for granted again. I expect these things in my life, and go through them in my morning routine without thinking or caring about them.
Then you read in the news about so many people in our country who have been hit by disaster. Hurricanes. Flooding. Or maybe just hard times. That’s when these little things suddenly become very big things. Deodorant. A toothbrush. Hand sanitizer. Small gifts with effects that are not small. Gifts that make you feel like a person again.
I think about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, and how he told his followers to do likewise. I’d like to think that when you give this hygiene kit, you are doing “likewise.” You are giving someone the gift of dignity. The gift of comfort. Respect. I love that. And Jesus’ action was not only symbolic of how we should act, it was also very practical! So when you give this gift, you can give it in honor of the most practical person in your life (hint to my family if they are reading this: that is me).
Read more from the World Vision blog here, and leave a comment below!