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October 25, 2014
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‘Tis the season


I’ve been out buying drill bit sets and bottles of wine, Godiva truffles and a gingerbread man cookie mix that comes complete with cookie cutters shaped in ninja poses. And let’s not forget the pink duct tape with the Scottie dog pattern for my great niece.

Yes, the season of presents and shopping is now fully upon us. And I know my friends and family will enjoy their gifts. But it is also the season of peace and goodwill. And I like to give presents that reflect the spirit of the season, too.

This year, I ordered gifts in my children’s names from World Vision, one of many charitable organizations that will send gifts of food and clothing to needy people in America and abroad. The gifts help to lift others out of poverty by providing education and means—for instance, a herd of sheep, or the excavation of a new water well for an African village. In the past, we have bought rabbits, sewing machines and soccer balls, gifts of music and art education, and mosquito nets.

It is commonly said that the way to end world poverty is to educate girls. This year, why not contribute to The Malala Fund, (malalafund.org) which strives to make girls’ education and empowerment accessible to all. The book, “I Am Malala,” is itself a perfect gift for the holiday season. This memoir is written by Malala Yousafzai with British journalist Christina Lamb. As I’m sure you have heard, it is an engaging portrait of the teenage girl who stood up for education in her native Pakistan and was shot in the head by the Taliban. A medical team was able to save her life.

The book tells of Malala’s life with her family in the Swat Valley as the Taliban is coming to power and of her determination to get an education for herself. It traces her gradual development into a girl known worldwide as an advocate for peace and justice as well as for her recovery after she was shot.

The book is particularly poignant in its stark contrasts. On one page, Malala is praying to Allah to grow taller; she doesn’t want to be short. Or she is playing cops and robbers with her brothers. She and her best friend Moniba read the “Twilight” books. She and Moniba quarrel and get in huffs with each other, like any dramarama (www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=dramaramateenager). She has to work at her chemistry homework.

On the next page she is talking about the Taliban blowing up schools. Or her father’s “getaway ladder” in case they need to escape their home in haste. She writes about the blog she wrote for the BBC detailing life under the Taliban. She tells of the brother of her teacher who was picked up by the army, put in leg irons, tortured and kept in a refrigerator until he died.

Recently, schools in Pakistan and Malaysia banned “I am Malala,” claiming that it is disrespectful of Islam, and that Malala has become a “tool of the West.”

Malala is now with her family and in school in England, but still wishing she could go back home.

The following are some websites where you can give gifts that will help others here and abroad. Remember, too, our local food pantries, which need donations all year long.

Heifer International (heifer.org)

The International Rescue Committee (gifts.rescue.org)

The Afghan Institute of Learning ((AfghanInstituteofLearning.org)

Care (www.care-international.org)

World Vision (www.worldvision.org/)