A few years before Alex was born Christine and I started a Christmas tradition of donating a giant pile of toys to Toys For Tots. It was a shopping bonanza. We'd usually go to the Disney Store on 50% off night and fill up on as many toys as we could carry. Sometimes a little more.
The idea that it was for charity offset the fact that we were running through a toy store like a couple of glutenous kids picking out anything of interest. But by June of this year I'd learned enough about the environmental impact of those toys that I could no longer quiet my conscious with "It's for charity." As fun as it sounds, indiscriminately buying a giant pile of toys isn't necessarily giving something nice to those kids.
That left me with a bit of a conundrum. How do I do something nice without adding to the mountain of plastic and electronics destined for our landfills?
It took a while to figure out an answer but we eventually settled on adopting some families (for Christmas) that couldn't afford gifts for their kids. Through my work and the local Wheat Center we got lists of what the kids in these families wanted/needed. We picked 4 families with a total of 8 kids who wanted/needed a mix of toys and clothes.
The requests were a bit vague and we only knew ages, clothes sizes, and toy interest. (i.e. 3 years old, size 3T, likes trucks.) So it turned out to be a little more work than Toys for Tots because we had to be specific about what we shopped for (no glutenous rush through the store grabbing toys with wild abandon) and then there was a rather daunting sorting effort preparing the toys for drop off.
Maybe it was knowing the stuff we were giving wasn't going to waste, and maybe it was the extra effort that made it seem like we were actually doing something. Whatever the reason, giving this Christmas turned out to be a lot more fun and rewarding than in years past.