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Holiday giving nets desired result

| Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006

It's that time of the year again. The holidays have crept up on us: we've survived the turkey coma, and now must face insane levels of mall traffic and unbelievably long lines. And of course, there is always the question: what to buy for the loved ones?

Some people are easier than others. My boyfriend, for instance, absolutely loves anything that can be plugged into a wall, so a trip to Best Buy is clearly in order. My dad has gotten some sort of jazz CD from my sister and me for the past six years -- not because we're cheap, but because he honestly loves them and refuses to purchase music for himself.

And then there are the other gift-recipients, those friends and family members who seem to have absolutely everything. Both my sister and I are notorious clothes-horses, and probably fall into this category; my grandparents, who are hip enough to buy their own electronics, and sporty enough to already own golf clubs, shoes, and rain-gear, are also somewhat difficult. And most friends are either too young for (or completely sick of) fruit baskets.

Faced with the gift-giving dilemma of what to get that special someone who has everything, many holiday shoppers drive themselves crazy seeking a unique, distinctive present. We wander the mall aimlessly, and buy marked-up "sale" items, thinking we'll keep the receipt just in case.

As I tried to psych myself up for this year's present-purchasing, I realized how cynical I had become. Had I really become so stressed out about what I should buy, that I'd begun to almost dread Christmas• I wondered: do my grandparents honestly care about what gifts they receive this year, or are they just happy to spend the holiday with their family members• Would my hard-to-buy-for friends be disappointed if I didn't manage to find the perfect present• I tried to turn the situation around -- would I care• I realized that the answer to every question was the same: the season is about being with the ones we love, not purchasing the ideal gift.

After this recognition, I began to think harder about what I could do to spread a feeling of love this holiday season. And then I happened to pick up a copy of Sports Illustrated. I flipped to the back page automatically, looking for the Rick Reilly column, fondly remembering high-school weeks spent trying to beat my dad to the mailbox to read the Reilly article first. The column made me cry. Reilly wrote about Sports Illustrated's Nothing But Nets campaign, which encourages people to donate $10 to buy a mosquito net for children in Africa. According to Reilly, "each day, 3,000 African children die of malaria for the very sad reason that they can't afford mosquito nets over their beds."

I thought about our American holiday season, about all the money spent on not-quite-right presents, about how much we could do for these people. About how important it is to me to be with the ones I love, and how terribly I would feel if those people weren't around.

This year, I'm donating $10 for each of my loved ones, in their names, online at NothingButNets.net . I want my family to know how much I value our time together -- and I want other families to have that same opportunity.

This year, I can be sure that my Christmas will focus on what really matters: love.

Megan Bode, of Upper St. Clair, is a senior at Duke University in North Carolina.

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