Saturday, December 29, 2007

Be A Mentor

Courtesy of dakari9

Imagine that you’re a child, being raised by only one parent, struggling to keep clothes on your back. Imagine that your parents are inexperienced teens, who probably aren’t married and they don’t know what they want to do with their lives, let alone the first thing about raising children. Imagine that you’re living in poverty, where most of your time is spent worrying about your next meal and not too much time is spent thinking about your future. Finally in any of the three scenarios, you can find yourself not seeing the point in going to school any longer and are considering quitting high school, maybe the idea of money earned at a full-time job (or more) might seem more important or so you believe that by doing so that you would have more time to do drugs. Under any and all of these circumstances, you could definitely use a mentor, someone to show you the way in life and help you to find answers to the questions that are probably running through your mind, someone that could be a positive role model and provide stability in a sea of turbulence and uncertainty? It is estimated that of the 32.5 million American kids between the ages of 10 and 18, that about half could benefit from a mentor and that for 15.1 million kids a mentor is not available. So many children in need of help, is certainly a driver for many mentoring efforts by various charities and charitable organizations. Awareness is one of the biggest drivers behind January 2008 being the 7th annual National Mentoring Month in the U.S. In addition, January 24th is Thank Your Mentor Day.

A mentor can be a trusted friend, counselor or teacher, usually a more experienced person. The person being mentored is more commonly referred to as the Protégé and sometimes called the Mentee. Mentoring goes all the way back Greek times with Socrates/Plato, and Plato/Aristotle having Mentor/ Protégé relationships. The business world has discovered the importance of mentoring and many people have benefited from mentors. Many companies will pair new hires with more experience employees, sometimes mentoring is used to groom up and coming employees with a series of coaches assigned. Many successful people in life have had a mentor at some point in their life to show them the the way (or at least a way).

Special skills are not required to be a mentor and mentors can come from all walks of life. What is needed are people that can give their time, experience, and to be able to listen to a mentee, providing valuable feedback. If you think back to when you were this age, there is probably someone that you could talk to about your concerns, maybe they didn’t always have the answers but they were there for you and helped you to think things through more clearly. Maybe they were your one or both of your parents, a relative, a teacher, or a friend, but they were there when you needed them. As an adult you have been through a lot to things that you probably don’t think about too much but your advice on dealing with these things could be invaluable and even life-saving to some of these kids. You might be able to encourage them to continue on with their education by pointing out the benefits of doing so, maybe you wish that you had gone to college and talk about this with them. You would be able to tell about how you got your first real job and help them in their preparation. You have learned so many of life’s lessons (some maybe even the hard way), your experiences could be invaluable to kid in need of a mentor.

According to the, of the 32.5 million kids (ages 10-18) in the U.S, it is estimated that about half could benefit from a mentor (17.6 million) and of that there is an estimated mentoring gap (where a mentor is not currently available) of 15.1 million kids. Consider that:

  • 1 out of 4 kids lives with only one parent
  • 1 out of 10 kids was born to teen parents
  • 1 out of 5 kids lives in poverty
  • 1 out of 10 kids will not finish high school

A lot has been said and written about the decline of the nuclear family, one where there is a father and mother living together with their kids. There are so many mixed families where there are children from previous marriages (or relationships), where the parents aren’t able to full-fill the role that they have traditionally served in a nuclear family. I have seen many divorced families and can relate to the fact that the parent with primary responsibility is so busy in trying to do it all that they might not see the signs that their kid(s) need help and are struggling. Even in “normal” families there is conflict and rebellion between children and their parent(s) and kids might not talk to them about any serious issues at all. In many of these situations, a positive role model would be beneficial and could provide a bite more stability in these kids’ lives.

Unlike some of the major issues today that will require a lot of money and resources to solve, mentoring doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, is something that most everyone can do, and you can have an almost immediate impact. You’re not expected to be a parent to these kids. What is needed is people that are willing to spend time listening and just being there for your mentee. Even with the busy schedules that most of us have, you probably have time to be a mentor. Many mentors have said that they have gotten just as much out of being a mentor as the gave,if not more. This is also a great way to fulfill that New Year’s Resolution of “making a difference”.

Some of the local organizations that are involved in the 7th annual National Mentoring Month include state and local affiliates in the U.S. of MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, Corporation for National and Community Service, Points of Light Foundation, America's Promise Alliance, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Communities in Schools, and United Way of America. Public service announcements from Colin Powel, Cal Ripken Jr., Quincy Jones, Usher, John Glenn, President Bill Clinton, Richard Dreyfuss, Edward James Olmos, Martin Sheen, Ray Charles, Kelsey Grammer, Mary Hart, Marc Anthony, Deepak Chopra, Larry King, Sen. John McCain, Bill Russell, Tim Russert, Mike Wallace, and various mentors and their protégés are available at the Who Mentored You website here.

I hope that you will look into being a mentor. There are a lot of kids that could use a mentor; I hope that you’ll become a mentor.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Creating Realistic New Year's Resolutions

So you’ve decided that you want to make a New Year’s Resolution or two. What is a New Year’s Resolution? A New Year’s Resolution can be defined as a commitment made by an individual or group to a project or habit; which often involves changes in lifestyle to implement. A recent survey conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation for Whole Foods Market found that more than 75% of Americans would prefer to adopt long-term life-style changes as opposed to traditional resolutions. Building on my previous post on New Year’s Resolution categories, I thought that I would describe how to create realistic New Year’s Resolutions.

Why is it that most New Year’s Resolutions fail? There are a variety of reasons why resolutions/goals fail but many can be attributed to the creation of the resolution itself. Many of the resolutions that people have made aren’t SMART. So before going into how to create realistic New Year’s Resolutions, I thought that I should elaborate a little further on SMART. SMART is an acronym used to create better achievable goals. Your goal(s)/resolution(s) should fit all of the criteria below:

S – specific/stretching (challenging), well defined, and clear
M – measurable/meaningful/motivating. How can you determine if you have reached it and progress that you have made towards your stated goal?
A – achievable/attainable/actionable
R – realistic/reasonable/results oriented
T – timely/tangible/trackable

Creating Your Realistic New Year’s Resolutions

Now let’s get started…

• Think about and write down anything that you’d like to change about your life. You can start a list and think about it over the course of a few days to capture other ideas.
• Review your list and remove anything resolutions that are terribly unrealistic. If one of your resolutions isn’t very realistic, you can still keep it but you must remember how unlikely it is that you won’t achieve it and how demotivating such a resolution might be to achieving your other resolutions. You don’t want to build in failure and quit all your resolutions, because you didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize.
• Look for incompatible resolutions. It might not be the best idea to lose weight and quit smoking at the same time. People often gain weight when they quit smoking, so you’re more likely to succeed if you choose one and then you can choose the other at a later time when you don’t have conflicting resolutions.
• Review your list and remove or modify any resolutions that aren’t SMART. Vague resolutions should be more defined. I want to lose weight could become I want to lose 10 pounds by June. Breakdown large resolutions into smaller achievable goals.
• Create alternatives to the behavior or habit that you would like to change. If you smoke to relax, you might try to find something else that you can do to help you relax as an alternative.
• Go for lifestyle changes whenever possible. Often a behavior that you want to change or get rid of is the byproduct of something else. Some people go shopping when they’re depressed while others turn to alcohol or eating. If you understand why you do something, you have a better chance of stopping it at the source. While a crash diet might help you lose weight fast, your loss isn’t likely to be permanent if you immediately go back to your old eating habits. That is why some many people on “diets” gain back their loss and then some. If you resolve to change your unhealthy eating habits instead of purely the quick weight loss you’re more likely to keep the weight off long-term.
• As part of SMART, you’ll want to create resolutions that motivate you. Don’t create resolutions for someone else, unless that is the motivation that you need to succeed at your resolution. Most people don’t have long-term motivation in impressing others. You’ll need a resolution that you want because you’re the person that is going to have to do it and live with the consequences.
• Define your resolution differently. If you have tried a particular resolution without success more than once, you might need to come up with a different approach. Many people are turned off by the terms “diet” and “budget”. Look for more empowering words to substitute in your resolutions or change the meaning of the work or resolution. If diet means a highly restrictive set of rules applied to your daily food intake that leaves your feeling hungry and unsatisfied, how likely are you to be motivated to keep your resolution?
• Limit the number and types or resolutions that you make. Build success into your resolutions. You can create short-term, intermediate, and long-term resolutions, so that success in the shorter term ones can motivate you to achieve the longer term ones. If you have too many resolutions, you can be unfocused and fail to achieve few, if any, of them.
• Join a supportive group or network. A lot of people can lose weight because of the support and encouragement that they find in attending Weight Watchers meetings. In addition to local support groups there are a variety of groups that you can join online. 43Things is type of social networking site where a site where people create a list of their goals and give advice and support to each other.
• Tell your family, friends, and co-workers about your resolutions. This builds in accountability, making it harder to drop your resolutions because of the shame factor. You’ll want to be careful about this one because there are a lot of negative people that want to drag you down with them.
• Be flexible and patient. Life happens and something might happen that makes it hard (if not impossible) to complete your resolution(s), but don’t give up so easily. If you find yourself sliding in your resolution, you might need to review it, modify it, and start again with renewed motivation. In losing weight, many people get off to a good start and then if they reach a plateau, they become demotivated and quit.
• You can create a New Year’s Resolution any day of the year, not just at New Year’s Day. If you can have Christmas in July, why not a New Year’s Resolution in March, August, or October?

Good luck with your New Year’s resolutions. Remember to keep them SMART!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

2008 is fast approaching and as many others do I got to thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. As the first in a series of posts about New Year’s Resolutions, I thought that I would write about the types of resolutions that are made. Most resolutions will fall into one or more of the areas below.

  • Spend more quality time with family and friends. At the heart of this resolution is the desire to improve or maintain some of the relationships that you have.

  • Get into shape and eat right. There are a lot of variations of this one including taking up jogging, joining a gym, eating healthier and so on. All the variations point to the fact that many of us feel that we need to lead healthier lives.

  • Quit smoking. There are a variety of reasons that people try to do this from health reasons to saving money.

  • Enjoy life more, live for today. There is the realization that while many of us would change a lot of things about our lives, we should enjoy what we do have and celebrate life. When people realize that our time on Earth is limited, they want to “live more” and stop putting off things that they have put on the backburner.

  • Quit drinking. I was surprised to see this one when reading about resolutions. While this would be good for people that have a “drinking problem” this is also adopted by people for religious reasons, as well as health and monetary reasons.

  • Get out of debt or spend less. For many people with huge debts (credit card and otherwise), there are obvious benefits to successfully doing this. Some people want to lead less materialistic lives, while others just want to have more control of their spending and make better use of their income.

  • Learn something new or improve your education. This resolution often applies to learning something that you have wanted to do for a long time. For other people there is the desire to finish an education that never finished or one that they have wanted to do for sometime. Maybe you want to get Masters Degree.

  • Help others, volunteer, or make the world a better place.

  • Get organized. This can encompass anything from your garage to your whole life. While some people might feel that their lives are out of control, others might see less things in their life that need to be organized.

  • Make a career change. Some people choose to finally start that business that they have been thinking about for years. Some people will change careers, jobs, or companies. This could be changing departments or what you do. It could also be the adoption of new or different goals in your career. Maybe even looking at what you do as a career.

  • Reduce overall stress. Stress causes a lot of health problems that we all face today. Many of the other resolutions might help reduce stress, but you should remember that they can add additional stress.

  • Take a trip. This could mean taking that trip that you have always dreamed of. If you’re a homebody, you might just want to get out of the house more and go some places

  • Be more or be less. Maybe you want to be more on time or be more understanding. Maybe you want to worry less or be less impatient with others.

  • Do something or not do something. Maybe you have wanted to read a certain book or paint your living room. Maybe you want to stop biting your fingernails

  • Other. Most of the resolutions that people make will fall into one of the areas above but like so many other things, you have to have an “other” possibility for the resolution not yet conceived.

When you think about the New Year’s resolutions that people make, most of them are covered in the areas above. I hope that you’ll join me for the new post on resolutions.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Your Comments And Feedback Are Welcome

I just wanted to say that your comments and feedback are welcome, wanted, and even encouraged. I’d love to know if something that I wrote resonated with you (positively or negatively). Maybe you thought that I missed a point or two or forgot something. Maybe you have something to add to one of the posts, some practical experience, tips, life experience or your own wisdoms. Most of all I would like to know that someone is reading my posts.

I have some basic rules on commenting. If you disagree with something you can say so. Please stay away from the use of profanity, obscenity, and don’t be abusive. I have seen some comment streams where readers exchanged abusive insults and personal attacks resorting to calling each other names. Please provide your name with your comment submission, you can request to be listed as anonymous if you would like. I would also like to see an email address. If you have a blog or webpage you can include it in your submission. Be creative. Ideas can often seem crazy when they’re new. Sometimes the best ideas are the ones that seemed so far out there when they were introduced. Remember that people once thought that the world was flat. Lastly, have fun and spread to word.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Keep Your Projects Simple Stupid

I’m sure that you have all heard of the KISS method or Keep It Simple Stupid. There are several variations of the expression that all boil down to keeping things uncomplicated, minimalist, or to their basic elements. If you truly want to complete more of your projects then you should apply this to your projects and make it one of your guiding principles.

David Allen as part of GTD (page 37) has defined projects as any desired result requiring more than one action step. While this is a far cry from the more traditional project management view of projects, both forms of projects can benefit from its use and application.

Traditional project management would spend a lot of time defining the projects but it is well known within the project management community that most projects (especially I.T. ones) fail. Using the GTD definition of projects I assume that you’ll find a lot of failed projects and procrastination stopping projects from progressing. David Allen has pointed out that projects are often not completed because they have tasks requiring more than one action step and they don’t define the next step needed for completion so it stays in their "inbox" or in their “todo” list. Those projects that do progress are often not defined properly (if at all) and/or they fall victim to scope creep. Scope can be defined as what you want to accomplish within your project as its goal. Scope creep is a traditional project management term describing project scopes that are expanded beyond their original intent or design. The kitchen sink syndrome and feature creep are sometimes used for scope creep, but they all refer to projects that can easily spiral out of control and fail.

How can you apply KISS to your projects?

  • Keep your project goal or scope simple. The more complicated your project goal the more things that can hamper you from accomplishing it. Also the more complicated your goal the more likely you are to procrastinate or delay starting it.
  • Define your project steps and keep them simple. You will need to determine the steps needed to be accomplish your project goal. Be sure to keep the number of steps and complexity at a minimum. By eliminating unnecessary steps and complexity, you can finish your projects sooner with less cost and effort. By knowing your steps (keeping them simple as well), you can make use of the “What is my next action?” in progressing your projects.
  • Resist the urge to add things along the way. Everyone has been there, a simple project morphs into something totally different and maybe the original project gets put on the back-burner to be completed later or completely abandoned. While you might have missed a step or two when you defined your project steps, you should avoid adding more steps unless necessary (see the next point). Before adding more steps make sure that they’re absolutely necessary. While you can add items that aren’t necessary, if you do this in all your projects and all areas of your life you can see how it can bog you down and stop you from accomplishing things. Ask yourself if the proposed added step adds enough value, remembering that there is likely to be additional cost and effort by adding step.
  • Remember that separate projects should stay separate projects. It is very tempting to add this or that to your project because you’re already doing it anyway or it wouldn’t be too hard to add this or that. At this point you need to remind yourself that this should be a separate project to be completed later. There is a good chance that your “nice to have” or “wishlist” item is not really a priority for you and your time would be better spent on other things with higher priorities. This might not come natural at first but it is part of focusing on your project and actually completing it.
  • Record “new” project ideas for possible “future” projects. People are often inspired when they’re working on their projects to add items to them or they have totally unrelated project ideas. You want to make sure that you capture these ideas in your “Someday Maybe” category, so that you can possibly do it later.

If you KYPSS (Keep Your Project Simple Stupid) by using the KISS concept, you’ll accomplish more of your projects and you’ll get more things done.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Gift Ideas for Those That Have Everything

What do you get someone that has everything? I’m sure that everyone has been faced with that a time or two and will again. Continuing my Christmas posts (also see Ideas For a Cheaper And More Meaningful Christmas, Charity And Christmas, and Getting The Most Out of Christmas). Here are a few ideas that you might be able to use next time that you’re faced with this problem. In many cases this is kind of a gift giving idea block and can disappear if you can give it enough thought and time. Too often we find ourselves in the situation that you need to buy a gift with only a few minutes to make up your mind what to select. A better approach might be to try to ask yourself a series of questions, to spark ideas.

Who is your gift recipient and what is their relationship to you? If they’re a close relative or close friend then you can probably easily think of some things that they’re interested in.

Do they like sports? Are they a big fan of a certain team or athlete or would they rather play a sport themselves. You could get them various apparel items related to their number one team or athlete.

Do they have any preferred authors or book genres? Maybe their revered author has a new book or there is one that the have been meaning to buy. If there is a genre that they like, you could find a new or interesting book that they haven’t read. Are their any biographies about their treasured author that they might be interested in?

Are there any bands or musicians that are music to their ears? There might be a new CD (or one that they don’t have) by their cherished artist or band. Tribute CDs can be a lot of fun, but I’d advise listening to your selection before buying it as some versions can be better than others (some are even awful).

What are their favorite hobbies? Maybe they like to cook. There are probably a million cookbooks, so you chances are that you could find them one that they would like. How about a cooking class? There might be an interesting course or two being offered at their local adult education facility. Maybe a popular local chef is doing some training.

Do they like to travel? Are there any places that they’re dying to visit? While buying them a trip to this destination might be more than you would like to spend, maybe you could go in on the gift with other siblings or friends or their might be a special package on a budget airline. You could also get a picture book about their desired location or one that has daytrips or describes tours. Maybe you could put together a gift basket of items likely to remind them of this place. If they want to go to France, maybe put together a basket of French wines or cheeses.

Are they alumni or big fans of a university, college, or school? You can probably easily find an item of clothing that they could wear to show their support for their school. Maybe their school has a big game (football, basketball, and etc) that could get tickets for. There is probably a lot of gift items available related to the school that you could give them. You might also make a donation to the school on their behalf.

Are there any charities that they belong to or admire? Maybe there is a product or gift that the offers that would do the trick or you could make a donation in their name.

Do they like projects and building things? Maybe they would enjoy putting together a puzzle. Perhaps the 1000 piece vintage World War I plane or ship in a bottle might be fun to put together.

How about a mystery dinner theater ticket? I attended one and it was a lot of fun. You were given a role but you didn’t know if your character did it or not and the excitement built as it was revealed who actually did it.

I hope that you find these ideas useful. As you can see, with some creativity you can come up with a gift for someone that has everything. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Getting The Most Out of Christmas

I thought that I would continue my Christmas series with a post about getting more meaning out of Christmas. I have previously written about Ideas For a Cheaper And More Meaningful Christmas and Charity And Christmas. In all the hustle and bustle we sometimes get our priorities mixed up and we lose sight of why we celebrate Christmas.

Enjoy your family traditions. Are there some traditions that you had as a kid that you really enjoyed? Maybe it is time to bring them back. If you don’t have any traditions from your childhood, maybe you could start some new ones. It is the traditions that you and your kids will remember. I have a friend in Dallas whose family always made tons of tamales at Christmas.

Involve others in your holiday plans. When I was going to the university and was living away from most of my family, I was always invited to spend Christmas with friends. Maybe you have a friend or co-worker that doesn’t have any holiday plans and they would be thrilled to be part of yours.

Get your children’s focus away from all those things that they want for Christmas. Many parents have heard their kids begging and pleading for this or that toy for Christmas. Now would be a good time to get them to focus on what they’re going to give others instead of what they’re going to get. You could also involve them in one of the charity drives this time of year or maybe work in a soup kitchen with them (see my post on Charity And Christmas for more ideas).

Learn about Christmas traditions around the world. Most of us are familiar with the Christmas traditions from where we grew up, but can fun to learn about people in other countries celebrate Christmas. Since I’m American, my wife is German, and we’re trying to raise our kids with both cultures, it does present some challenges when the Christmas traditions are different. Maybe you have a relative or friend that comes from the “old country” and they can tell you about how they celebrated Christmas as a kid.

Bring Jesus back into Christmas. There are some Christian denominations that would say that Christmas is a pagan holiday and they don’t celebrate it or they keep their celebrations to a minimum. Here is an article Ways of Keeping Christ in Christmas. Here are some Christmas bible verses.

Separated and broken families bring new challenges to celebrating Christmas but it shouldn’t break your spirit. As a kid one set of my grandparent lived over 1,000 miles away so we didn’t often spend Christmas with them, but there are many families that go to great lengths to celebrate with both sets of grandparents. When you factor in the number of children that come from divorced families, it makes celebrating Christmas that much more of a challenge. While the actual calendar day that you have celebrated Christmas in the past might not coincide with when you have the kids, you’ll want to treat the time that you have the kids as though it is, or treat it as an alternative Christmas. You’ll want to make the best of the situation that you have, be creative, and have fun, You do not need to have a perfect Christmas, so don’t stress yourself out. Here is article that I found on divorced dads handling Christmas. I didn’t happen to run across and good articles on Christmas and the single mom celebrating Christmas, but Momsrefuge is a handy resource for working moms (and even non-working moms).

Sing some Christmas carols. Our girls are at an age that they love to sing. I went for a walk with them the other day and we sang 3 Christmas carols the whole way. I guess that I need to look up the text to more songs! Maybe you could organize a caroling event at a senior center or for some shut-ins.

Watch It’s a Wonderful Life, this time of year you can almost certainly find it on television somewhere. I also enjoy some of the old Christmas specials from when I was a kid like Rudolf the Red Nosed Raindeer, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, Frosty the Snowman, and so on. Miracle on 34th Street with Natalie Wood is another holiday film that I enjoy. There are several good ones out there so maybe you can enjoy one today.

I hope that you’ll do some of these things start getting more out of Christmas. Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Charity And Christmas

When doing my post about Ideas for a Cheaper And More Meaningful Christmas, I realized that there was more than one topic I wanted to write about and I was inspired to continue on the Christmas topic. In all of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, it can be easy to forget giving shouldn’t just be limited to family and friends on your list. There are several charities that depend on Christmas generosity in helping out people in all walks of life.

I’m sure that you probably remember Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami of 2004? Both are huge natural disasters where thousands of lives were lost and thousands more effected by the aftermath. Recovery and rebuilding continue and donations would be appreciated. Both events show us all that we have a lot to be thankful for. Here is the U.S. government’s webpage for Katrina. For the Tsunami of 2004, some charities you could give to are the United Way, United Nations OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), UNICEF, American Red Cross, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Since the Tsunami was almost three years ago now, there aren’t so many high profile programs to aid, you could also donate to one of these organizations and indicate that you wanted to your donation to go to the Tsunami (or other disasters for that matter).

The Christmas season is one of the biggest times of the year for charities. For a lot of them, this is where they tend to shine and much of their activities are focused on this time of year (i.e. many of the toy based charities), for others it is a time of year that they have a higher visibility. A large portion of many charities budgets comes from donations made during the Christmas season. While it should be noted that money is almost always needed by most charities, your time and talents are also welcome. Many of us are familiar with the red bucket of the Salvation Army but they do some much more than this, they also have an opportunity to help out with the cyclone victims in Bangladesh amongst other opportunities. The U.S. Marines have been running Toys for Tots for many years now. You can buy Christmas Seals from the American Lung Association for your Christmas cards and letters. Secret Santa is an organization connecting people with local toy drives. Samaritan’s Purse was created based on the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) and have several relief projects around the world, they’re putting on the Gift Filled Shoe box project. Familygivingtree based out of California (but expanding) helps fulfill the holiday wishes of kids that would otherwise have to go without for Christmas. Makeawish gives hope to kids with life-threatening medical conditions. based on the Christmas carol “All I Want for Christmas” charitable gift-giving efforts of community organizations throughout the U.S. enabling charities, daycares, and preschools to accept toy donations online. From the Prison Fellowship puts on Angel Tree which provides toys to children of parents that are in prison. Here is a site with several links to local charities in the U.S. Here is an article about helping charities at Christmas when money is low Have you seen the movie Pay-It-Forward about the boy that started a chain reaction by doing some good deeds for others and then asking the recipients to pay it forward instead of repaying him? Here is a story about some people that actually put it in action. If you have doubts about a charity, then maybe you could check them out at the Better Business Bureau (for the U.S. and Canada)

Are there other ways that I can help? There are lots of other things that you do to help out your fellow man. Blood is always needed by local blood banks, sometimes it is needed more this time of year, so you could check with your local blood bank or Red Cross, as there is probably a blood drive near you. You can see about serving a meal at a local soup kitchen over the holiday season (at other times would be welcomed as well). You could mentor a child at Big Brothers Big Sisters International, they mentored over 280,000 kids in 12 countries (according to their website). You could become involved at, a local hospital, or nursing/retirement home. You can also show your kids the importance of giving of yourself and involving them in some of the activities.

I hope that you spread some holiday cheer to others and help to make spirit and giving of the season last longer than December. Happy Holidays