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Posted: December 3, 2010 12:30 a.m.

About Faith: Favorite things

There’s a scene in the movie version of "The Sound of Music" when Sister Maria (Julie Andrews) led the Von Trapp kids in singing "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things." There were no iPods or Wii’s to chase away their fright that stormy night. Instead, they dreamed of snowflakes on their eyelashes, and warm woolen mittens.

That song expresses the conviction that happiness is to be found in the simplest things, and more joy comes from giving than getting. It is a good thing to remember as we find ourselves speeding full-throttle through the season of gift-giving. What do you give someone that shows true thoughtfulness and leaves both giver and receiver with a feeling of Christmas cheer? What can you give that will make the receiver want to give the same gift to someone else next year?

The answer lies in giving a gift that expresses true charity where charity is needed, but in honor of someone else. There is an array of charitable organizations that can benefit from your generosity. Most can receive donations online, so you get all your shopping done without leaving the house. They usually notify the "recipient" that a gift has been made in their honor, or they send you a card that you can fill out and send to them yourself. As an added little bow on top, you get a deduction on your income tax return (make sure the organization has 501(c)3 status).

It is especially meaningful when you give a gift to a charity that is important to the person you want to honor. For example, I sometimes donate to a summer camp in Mississippi for children with diabetes, because my brother-in-law (a physician) spends his vacation there as a volunteer. My brother-in-law doesn’t need another set of golf balls, but he loves to get that little card in the mail.

There is a worthy cause for everyone on your shopping list. Here are a few of my favorites:

Newton County

Faithworks, an ecumenical charity to help people pay their utility bills, rent, etc when they have fallen on hard times; (770) 784-1884; www.faithworkscovington.org.

Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter (Rainbow Covenant Ministries); (770) 787-8519.

Family Promise of New Rock, a new ministry of hospitality to help the temporarily homeless in Newton and Rockdale Counties; (678) 415-4025; www.familypromiseofnewrock.org.

And of course, the church of your choice.

National

The educational institution of your choice.

In Newton County, my favorite is Oxford College. www. oxford.emory.edu.

Habitat for Humanity. www.habitat.org

The American Red Cross www.redcross.org

For disaster relief, I also like the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). www.new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor

There are countless organizations to support medical mission and research.

International

Heifer International is one of the most creative gift giving opportunities I have seen. You can give livestock to a family in a developing part of the world. It will not only feed them for a day, but give them a livelihood that will last for years. Heifer has gifts in all price ranges, starting at $20. www.heifer.org.

Amnesty International champions the cause of people who are denied basic human rights because of their religious or political beliefs. www.amnesty.org.

I have barely scratched the surface of giving opportunities, and I apologize in advance for leaving your favorite one out. But I cannot think of a better way to spread the spirit of Christ, who gave us all the example of self-giving. Now let’s go shopping for a few of our favorite things!

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