What is on your Christmas wish list?
I have a few things I would like. But I worry a lot more about my family than myself. I want my boys to have a great holiday and God knows my wife deserves a token of appreciation for putting up with me for another year.
But my sons' letters to Santa really hit home when I got a more detailed glimpse inside the life of a family we help sponsor each month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
We are fortunate to have met a couple of women during our first visit to Africa in the process to adopt Dawit who have started a program that helps impoverished people there. The program helps to feed the family, care for basic health needs and pay for the items needed to send the children to school. Thanks to this program, the families have a chance to escape the cyclical poverty that has ensnared so many families there.
My mother continued a family tradition recently that had been important to my dad before he passed away earlier this year. Each grandchild and great-grandchild is given $20 with which they are required to do an act of kindness.
Then they report back at our family Christmas about what they did with their money. It was my parents' way of teaching the children to discover and help meet needs in their own communities and around the world. It is a hands-on life lesson about what is really important every day and especially during the Christmas season.
Dawit chose to give his money to a family who is trying to adopt an older orphan from Addis Ababa. He wanted another little orphaned boy to find a home like he did.
I was proud of Blake because I usually offer a handful of options and let him choose. This year, Blake had identified several options on his own. I added a few more and gave him some time to mull it over.
He decided to use his money to give a little extra assistance to Usinia and her family.
I'm sure her family's wish list had something to do with that. As Blake and Dawit decide which toys and games they want Santa to bring. Usinia and her family had different desires. The in-country program manager said they could really use some meat.
In all of the letters to Santa I have received at newspapers in almost two decades, none of them ever asked for meat.
Of course, none of them lived in a plastic tarp home where water rushes in and comes through openings near the roof during the rainy season.
Page 2 of 2 - It is enough to break your heart. But when you see the inside of the home it is neat and clean and the family that lives there works hard just to survive.
That is why our family supports the program that supports this family. A little bit of help to take care of daily needs allows them plan for the future. A day laborer and his wife who sells pieces of sugar cane for about two cents a piece to make ends meet, can send their daughter to school.
This program is not a charity. It is a small opening to a way out.
Our friend told us the family is excited because they see opportunities for a brighter future.
"They are excited for the future," she said. "You can tell by how spotless this home is. It may be plastic, but it's clean and respected. I know that they are looking toward the future, and we will be there for them every step!"
There is nothing wrong with spending money on your kids and your spouse this Christmas. But please look for chances to help others across the street or across an ocean as part of your holiday giving.
What seems like a small donation can give a family more than gifts this Christmas. It can give them hope.
To find out about the program that I mentioned, go to www.leltfoundation.org. Every town has local organizations that do a lot of good here as well.
Giving back is one of the best family traditions you can develop.
There is no greater gift than hope. Give a little this holiday season.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Daily Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.