Sunday, December 14, 2008

Books and toys for Christmas

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: books for your immediate family and toys for God's extended family.

Roy Blount, Jr., who many of us know primarily for his appearances on NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me," has some great ideas for gifts this holiday season. H/T James Fallows:

I've been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren't known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don't lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn't in the cards.

We don't want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let's mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that's just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!

I would also draw your attention to this post from James at The Three Legged Stool, who writes about one of my favorite charities, Toys for Tots:

I grew up in a family that was, to be honest, economically less than blessed. As children and teenagers, we really didn't know we were on the poor side of life. The "poor" were those we took meals to, or went over and helped in other ways. Mom and dad always found a way to see we had something to make our eyes light up Christmas morning. I don't know how they did it, to be honest. Our gifts were never extravagant, but no one we knew ever got anything extravagant. There were always the dreaded socks, too, to our regret.

I just saw that the USMC's Toy's for Tots is about 25,000 toys short of their typical stockpile at this time of year. The toy bank in my local community has received requests form 700 additional families than it normally receives... Ask your coworkers to help. Skip lunch today or tomorrow and give that money to make a child's eyes light up on Christmas morning. A child you will never know, a young person who will never be able to thank you. Trust me, you won't miss the few dollars.

Adults understand, but children and teenagers do not understand why there is nothing under the tree.

For more information, run a Google news search for "Toys for Tots shortage." I couldn't find anything on a national shortage, but there were articles from around the country - the Boston suburbs; northern CA; Honoloulu; Lehigh, PA - about local shortage after local shortage.

James is right. Times are tough for everyone, but they're tougher on some than others. Toys for Tots were set up at the front of my local grocery store on Friday, so having just read James' post, I bought a $9 stuffed monkey along with my beer and vegetables. $9 - that's half a CD, two lattes, or one dollar less on gifts for nine other people - to put a smile on a little boy or girl, maybe six years old, who maybe hasn't smiled in quite some time. No matter how tough times may be, any middle class family can find an extra $10 to help your younger brother or sister in Christ. There is no reason charities should suffer from an economic downturn when they are needed more than ever. And if you really can't find the $10, that's ok; maybe you can find the time to be one of those folks at the front of the store collecting the toys.

What kind of neighbors are we if we don't?

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