There’s no time like the present. Don’t count your gifts, make your gifts count

Andrew Leci plants the seeds of some good ideas for the festive period

I loathe the phrase ‘charity begins at home’. Somehow, over the years, it even seems to have been elevated to the status of proverb. This could be due to a biblical origin, with something of its ilk appearing in the King James version (1611) – a book that we should all take extremely seriously despite the fact that it was translated from who knows how many languages by 47 different translators, 408 years ago. I mean, it’s not as though much has changed since then…

I paraphrase for the sake of clarity, but in 1 Timothy, Chapter 5 Verse 8, we get something along the lines of: “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” Stern words, indeed, and very much in the spirit of the age, but it would be nice to think that we’ve evolved a little bit since then, and while looking after ourselves and our own remain as important considerations, we should also be finding the time and space to do something useful for others.

It would be safe to assume that the illustrious readers of this august publication have both the wherewithal and the foresight to have already made provisions for themselves and their families, in which case charity really can begin… elsewhere.

I hate shopping, so I won’t be buying any presents for my loved ones this festive season – whoever they may be – and have decided to extend some gifts that have a little more meaning than token gestures, and even tokens themselves for that matter. Buying gifts is a difficult exercise, fraught with peril, so I think it’s high time to head down a different root (sic) and give people something that they will appreciate, enjoy, and may just produce a better equation in the giver / recipient relationship. It’s a long shot I know, but what’s the worst that can happen?

At the risk of getting into serious trouble and alienating one or two organisations, I feel that behemoth charities are not the way to go when you’re feeling munificent. Somehow, having executives within a charity who earn top dollar doesn’t feel right, as donors tend to feel as though their money could be put to better uses. The other side of that argument is that these are the people who help raise the money and administer accordingly, but when you see massive staff numbers and plush offices, you can’t help thinking that the full extent of donations are not ending up where they’re supposed to be.

It’s good to keep it simple, and One Tree Planted – an environmental charity and non-profit organisation out of the US – has done just that, making it very easy for people to help plant trees. One US dollar = one tree. As easy as you like. With ‘a focus on global reforestation’, One Tree Planted works with partners around the world who plant trees on behalf of donors, and while they hit a fairly measly 1.3 million trees in 2018, they’re hoping that the total will be more than three times that in 2019. Who knows, with growth like that we might not feel quite so guilty about eating a hamburger in about 100 years’ time.

Illustrating why trees are so important shouldn’t be necessary, but try telling that to the Nigerian government – it’s the country that, according to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) is the worst deforester on the planet. Trees are the ‘lungs of our planet’, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. According to Roger Leakey, a world-renowned crop physiologist and tree biologist, they are also the skin, heart, kidneys and intestines as well. That’s quite an organ recital. As a species, we wouldn’t be around were it not for trees, and we may not be around for that much longer if we don’t do something to halt the rampant deforestation carried out in the name of progress.

There are several charities and non-profits that deserve money, and this is the season of giving, after all, but with so many available options, it’s worth scouting around for one that gives bang for the buck and will also appeal to those on whose behalf you are donating. While I used to enjoy giving people watches for Christmas accompanied by the saying, “there’s no present like the time”, this year it’s going to be different. I think I may have found a gift that keeps on giving, literally, and could ultimately play a big part in helping us to help ourselves.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Stay up to date with our latest stories

Stay in touch with the latest in luxury