By Assunta Ng and Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
When looking for holiday presents, there are certain criteria that many of us consider. We want the gift to be a perfect representation of our affection for the receiver. We hike around malls and browse through dozens of Internet sites trying to find that amazing (and probably expensive) gift for our husband, wife, mother, or father.<!–more–>
But what about those people that are a few degrees removed from us? The children of co-workers or our second cousin twice removed? What do we give them?
When you’re in a pinch, consider the following:
$5 goes a long way
1. In a fast-moving world where 12-year-olds have smart phones, consider going retro in your gifts to the younger generation. Before Xbox Kinect, kids got their exercise using jump ropes and hula hoops. These gifts are an inexpensive way to get kids moving.
2. “If you play ‘The Little Drummer Boy,’ I will give you $5,” I told three cute kids. They were five to eight years old, and they were playing Christmas songs on a busy street in downtown Seattle. Several dollar bills were in their money bag, but there were no $5 bills.
“OK!” said the happy kids. I wish you could have seen those innocent faces and beaming eyes.
One kid said, “I know that one.” He flipped to the right page of the song book. They started playing their trumpet, violin, and cello.
After the performance, they immediately stopped and counted the money, which amounted to $40 or $50.
“We got enough money,” said one. They rushed to their dad who was standing behind a tree with another child. I turned to the dad.
“Those are your kids?” I asked. “What do they use the money for?”
“They have to earn their Christmas money,” the dad said. “Also, it pays for their music lessons.” The father is a musician with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
3. My Rotary Club is asking for toy donations. My kids are grown up, so I didn’t expect to find any toys in my home. Then I remembered that some corporate sponsors gave me a stuffed panda and a tiger piggy bank. If only I could find them! It gave me much joy to find the lovely panda residing in one of my drawers. I smile when I imagine the face of the child who will receive it.
If you want to donate toys but don’t have any, just go to a Goodwill store. There are old and new toys at very low prices.
4. Last week, I gave $5 to a Black woman selling Real Change, a paper for the homeless. I could hear her say “thank you” ceaselessly as I walked away.
5. Sometimes, giving a little bit of money to kids is the easiest thing to do. But put a thoughtful Asian spin on it and give them red envelopes for good luck.
6. The holidays can be mighty stressful. Spa packages are popular this time of year. Instead, why not give someone a gift certificate to an acupuncturist? If that’s too pricey, Chinese Yin and Yang health balls are only a few bucks.
7. Make someone a greeting card. It doesn’t take as much time as you think it would. And if you don’t think you’re artistic, you can always print out a photo of your family and make that into a greeting card.
8. The holidays can get pretty busy. Why not take some work off of a friend’s plate by making them and their family dinner? Just drop off a casserole for them to reheat. Easy, inexpensive, and it will surely go over very well.
Sometimes, the best gift is an education
9. Everyone has a talent — why not share your special talent and teach someone something? If you’re an artist, why not conduct an art class with a bunch of friends? If you’re a great cook, there are many out there who could use your tips and guidance so they don’t have to rely on frozen dinners.
10. “Giving a scholarship to young people tells them that someone cares about them,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke once said.
“It means someone is willing to take a chance on you,” said Frances Youn, a scholarship recipient who is studying for her Master of Business Administration degree at the University of Washington. Without her scholarship, Youn said she would not be able to pay her bills.
When I received an urgent e-mail asking for support for the Olympia News Bureau, which has been operated by the UW for more than 30 years and provides students with professional experience covering the state legislature and the various state departments, I responded without a second thought. Just this year, I wrote checks for a few scholarship programs. These are not always big checks, but this is how I take a stand on education and support our young people.
Consider giving the gift of life
11. “You have a lot of iron in your blood,” our family doctor told my husband. “Why don’t you donate some blood?” said the doctor.
How come we didn’t think of that? We just read a press release that the blood supply of the Puget Sound Blood Center (PSBC) has been low. This gift can also improve my husband’s health. So he went to PSBC after his check-up. It is an easy process.
According to many friends, my husband is a skinny guy. I never thought that he could donate blood. He came home, worked as usual, and felt fine. If you are in good health, consider donating blood. You never know who you’ll save.
Find your nearest Puget Sound Blood Center by visiting www.psbc.org.
12. Perhaps the easiest thing for you to do this holiday season (if you haven’t done so already) is to become an organ donor. Sign a donor card (find it at www.organdonor.gov) or if your driver’s license is up for renewal, you can go to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (find it at www.dol.wa.gov) and designate yourself as an organ donor on your license. ♦
Assunta Ng and Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.