December 2, 2011

A Farmful of Block Prints

        Today's theme is block prints of farm animals.  Why?  Since P and T were four years old we've created a tradition in our family of buying them farm animals for the holidays.  We've bought the family rabbits, llamas, honeybees, more rabbits, guinea pigs, sheep, ducklings, chicks, more rabbits, a water buffalo, and one year I even bought myself a camel.  This December we'll be getting our children a couple of goats.  This would be quite messy and noisy, not to mention illegal in our suburban yard, except that we aren't the ones who keep the animals.  They get sent all around the world to help families in need.
        Heifer International is one of my favorite organizations because their help solves so many problems at once - hunger, lack of education, degradation of the environment, oppression of girls and women, community divisions, injustice…  By giving families farm animals and teaching them how to care for their animals in an environmentally sustainable way, those families are able not only to feed themselves, but to send their children to school.  Both woman and men are able to prove their competence at earning and controlling property, and at teaching others the skills they've learned.  Because recipients must pass on the gift of livestock and skills to others in their communities, not only do the physical gifts get spread, but so do the respect, generosity, sense of community, and
bridging of barriers.  Please visit Heifer's web site and read all about what they do.
        So every year around Thanksgiving or Christmas we buy our children farm animals that aren't for them.  We do also give the kids a token gift that they can keep, usually a small stuffed animal or figurine to remind them of their chosen animal.  One can argue about the philosophy of expecting to receive gifts for oneself when giving to others, but for children we've found that the little toys they receive help them to remember what we've done and why.  Every time they get tucked into bed with their stuffed rabbits they might just
remember how important it is that we try to make the whole world a better place as best we can.  Every November when P and T get to look through Heifer International's gift catalogue to see what animal they'd like to share this year, they are reminded of how important it is that every person in the world get a chance to work hard, care for their families, and share with others in turn.
        In the past couple of years we've started giving Heifer animals to our parents, our brothers and sisters-in-law, and our nephews, too.  It's so much fun trying to match up what animal would be most pleasing to everyone, and P and T sometimes help with that, too.
        If you don't do so already, please consider enriching your holiday gift-giving this year with "alternative gifts."  It doesn't have to be farm animals.  You can give gifts that help the environment to those who love wildlife and the outdoors, gifts to foster the arts to those who love music and art, gifts to soup kitchens for cooks, gifts to urban gardening initiatives for gardeners, gifts that foster education for teachers…  Let your imagination widen out until it embraces the entire Earth, and then show your family and friends how much you really care - about our whole beautiful world.

[Pictures: Two Cows - South Dakota, rubber block print by AEGN, 1997;
Family Portrait, rubber block print by AEGN, 2001;
Jewelweed, rubber block print by AEGN, 2006;
Three Rabbits, rubber block print by AEGN, 2009;
Hen & Chicks, rubber block print by AEGN, 2009;
One Hump or Two?, rubber block print by AEGN, 1998;
Home, rubber block print by AEGN, 2008.]


Pax said...

I love this idea of how to undermine and disengage from the crass commercialism this holiday has come to represent. Thanks, Anne. There are a host of worthy causes out there that help us realize that it might indeed be better to give than to receive.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Don't get me wrong - I definitely like giving and receiving traditional gifts, too. But "alternative gifts" are a fun addition that help turn the focus, add an extra dimension, and make sure the gift-giving doesn't turn into a chore when it ought to be a joy.