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Consider giving from all sides

Giving is a good and happy feeling but, as always, there are principles to consider.

Giving is a good thing:

* When it helps the poor, the sick, the lonely, the cold, the homeless, be they humans or animals

* When it helps family solidarity

* When it benefits good works by individuals, small businesses, or organizations

* When it is thoughtful of the earth and its resources

Contrariwise, giving may become onerous:

* When it feels like an expectation and is done without any feeling of cheer

* When it gives too much to those who have too much

* When it exploits the earth and its resources, or derives from inhumane practices like child slavery and sweat shops

* When it contributes to the plastic waste that overflows our landfills and now forms vast acreages on the ocean floor

It is often said that 'Christmas is for children.' But often children are overwhelmed at an early age with too many gifts, while they soon come to know that others lack for even the most basic necessities. What are they to make of the inequity? They may decide, for lack of a better explanation, that they are more worthy, more deserving. I feel that families need to teach children at a tender age about charity, respect for the earth, in a word 'good giving.'

In making purchases, here are the key words to look for: Fair trade/equal exchange, organic, local, sustainable, recycled/recyclable, consumable, hand made or hand cooked, profits go to a good cause, not made of plastic . . . There will be festivals all over town, and you will see those words. They are important. People have worked for decades to bring these things to our attention. Good sources of information are the ReDirect Guide, the Chinook Book, newspapers, Hello LO … You can find the two books in natural food stores, or on-line. Go to ReDirect Guide, click 'Portland/Vancouver,' then 'Entire List of Categories.'

Also, the Chinook Book, if you see it around, makes a good gift. It contains hundreds of coupons to local businesses that sell green, sustainable products or foods in this area. It is published by the Celilo Group, which may also be found on line.

The Christmas Tree. Unfortunately Christmas tree farms, unless specified organic, use toxic chemicals, harmful to animal and human life and our precious waters. My family goes to a wonderful place each year for its tree: Little Z Tree Farm. Pass the roundabout at Luscher Farm, left at the next tiny road, 'Zivney Lane,' to a small house in the forest. It is bountiful, diverse, wonderfully aromatic, organic - all those good things. They will cut a tree of your choice for you while you marvel at the beauty of nature, see the baby trees regenerating on their own, sense that this place is full of wild animals, hiding and watching … A plastic tree? Oh no, not for me. I think it would make the angels weep.

You can also decorate with boughs of pine or holly that grow freely in this area.

The Wrapping. Avoid buying those colorful Christmas papers. Paper comes from logging the forest, dyes contaminate our waters, fish and wildlife. A nice alternative is a re-usable tote bag or pretty cloth, or a sheet of used newspaper, decorated with pine, holly or cones. Or ribbons and festive papers from previous 'unwrappings' can be re-used.

The Gift of Time. If you know someone who is lonely, your time could be the best gift of all. An event, a lunch, a cup of tea, a walk …

I hope these thoughts will not offend or spoil anyone's holiday. We have only this one beautiful planet.

Happy holidays to all.

Barbara Kelley is a resident of Lake Oswego and is active in the sustainability movement..