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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

December 17, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 169




Pat Morrison Go ahead, get Uncle Edgar's goat!

Pat Morrison, NCR managing editor

OK, there are officially seven shopping days left until Christmas, and you still have people on your list who are gift-less. You've made your list and checked it twice, but whether naughty or nice, some people are almost impossible to buy for.

Other Today's Takes by Pat Morrison
Dec. 16, 2003 Happy Holidays? Bah, humbug!
Dec. 15, 2003 Finding Saddam, losing Mazen
Oct. 3, 2003 (Un)happy anniversary, intifada
Oct. 2, 2003 Multi-taskers have a heavenly mentor
Oct. 1, 2003 An ordinary life sparks an unlikely revolution
Aug. 14, 2003 Women's realities, Mary's feast
Aug. 13, 2003 Maybe it's time to change pews
Take Uncle Edgar. He's got everything a successful American could want, and can easily purchase anything he may not have yet. So the Chia Pet (or even the $150 walnut humidor) won't do.

There's your retired neighbor, Alice. She's a generous, other-centered person who lives in her efficiency apartment with quiet dignity. She doesn't really "want" for anything, but she loves bunnies. She has rabbit knickknacks and towels and soap dispenser, and a bunny motif decorates her bathroom. But she doesn't have room for more "stuff" and you'd like to give her something that would be both special and make a difference.

Don't forget Sylvia, who's fun and successful and single, and a good friend. That mall gift certificate seems too impersonal, and she certainly doesn't need another scented candle, even if it is the kiwi-primrose-vanilla bean "holiday special."

And, as if the stress of not having finished your Christmas shopping isn't enough, there's that guilt nudging you to stop feeding the Conspicuous Consumption Machine. You'd like to find a way to break free of the commercialism, consumerism and Madison Avenue hype, but you do like to give special people a gift on Christmas.

Enter, to the rescue, the Alternative, Keep It Simple, Make a Difference, Gift Suggestion Angel!

At this time of year especially, charities and worthwhile organizations galore compete for our attention and dollars. Highlighting and suggesting some over others is always a difficult challenge, but today and tomorrow in this space, I'm going to mention a few special organizations that can not only assist with your gift-giving, but help you make a difference in our world as well. Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. But each of these organizations plays a pivotal role in bringing peace, justice, fair trade, employment and human dignity to people around the world. (And each enjoys a superior ranking on lists of the best-run charities.)

Heifer International ( began in the 1930s when a Midwestern farmer and Church of the Brethren youth worker gave cups of milk to children on both sides of the Spanish Civil War. Realizing that what was needed was "not a cup, but a cow," he encouraged his friends in the United States to donate a heifer so hungry families could have the means to feed themselves. For the past 50 years, Heifer International has given families around the world (currently 115 countries) a food source rather than short-term relief. Animals supplied by Heifer (and training in their care and husbandry) help families become self-reliant and have a means of ongoing support. Beyond the animals' original product, from eggs to wool, farmers also learn sustainable and environmentally sound agricultural techniques.

From the original concept of a heifer, the project has expanded to include a veritable Noah's ark of animals, from chickens to llamas, goats to water buffalo, rabbits, bees and even trees. Donors can give the gift of an animal ($10 and up), or a "share" of an animal and also choose the country they'd like to help. (Offices, companies and churches can also adopt a whole "ark" of animals.) A fun and interesting Web site makes this a great place for kids to go Christmas shopping.

So if you really want to get Uncle Edgar's goat this year, Heifer can help you do it. The gift of a goat is $120, a share of a goat is $10. (You can get Alice a pair of rabbits here too.) You'll get a colorful gift card, and Uncle Edgar will get a great presentation on what a dairy goat can do for a family in a developing nation, what country his goat will be a gift in, and a warm, fact-filled human interest story about the people of the region as well. (Heifer International, P.O. Box 8058, Little Rock, AR 72203; (800) 422-0474.)

Christian Peacemaker Teams (, an outreach of the Mennonite Central Committee and Church of the Brethren, joined today by Quakers and Catholics, began in the 1980s when members of the peace churches were seeking new ways to express their faith and respond peacefully to violence around the world. Today, group offers an organized, nonviolent alternative to war and other forms of lethal inter-group conflict and provides organizational support to persons committed to faith-based nonviolent alternatives in situations where lethal conflict is an immediate reality or is supported by public policy.

Gifts of prayer, time (the group accepts short-term volunteers to work in areas of conflict and provides training) and money are always welcome. Even a small donation helps the peace teams continue their work of building peace on the world's front lines. (Tell Sylvia you skipped the kiwi candle and sent the $20 to build world peace; she'll love you for it.)

Christian Peace Teams are serving in nine countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq. Even a small donation goes a long way to keep their teams in place and their work going. A gift for yourself: Sign up for their e-mail briefings and expand your world. (Christian Peacemaker Teams, Box 6508, Chicago, IL 60680-6508; (773)-277-0253)

Pat Morrison is NCR managing editor. Her e-mail address is

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