Gift-giving can sometimes turn a blessing into a quandary.

The more we have, the more we have. That’s hardly a problem. However, Christmastime leads me to ponder how to temper abundance with thoughtful gift-giving. There are options that provide the ability to emphasize personal growth, philanthropy, spirituality and other values.

When I was growing up, one of my Christmas gifts was money for adopt-a-family items. We were expected to select what items we’d buy and for whom. Our mother then took us shopping for the gifts, which we were to find, purchase, wrap and ensure were properly delivered.

I have continued this tradition with my daughter, Zoey, who’s now 13. Unfortunately, many families in our metro area continue to lack the means to provide gifts and other holiday and winter items at this time of year.

You can help families during the holiday season by donating to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank ( or through your congregation. (If your community doesn’t publicly sponsor an adopt-a-family project, your clergy is likely still aware of unmet needs in your community.)

Giving the gift of selecting donations to others through charities like Heifer International ( and Plan International USA ( is fun and informative.

Each offers ways to donate things like farm animals, mosquito nets, Bibles and educational opportunities to children and families in impoverished areas worldwide. Included with the gift are stories of those helped and updates on a donation’s impact. Gifts start at about $10.

It’s also possible to give the gift of volunteering. For example, my friend Angela organized an opportunity for our group of friends to volunteer for a charity at Christmas time. Our close-knit circle enjoys such activities, but we don’t take the time to arrange the details. Angela did the research, the scheduling and organizing, making it possible for the rest of us to simply show up. It was a real treat and very much appreciated.

You can do the same for your loved ones and perhaps make it a Christmas tradition. Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley ( offers the most complete list of opportunities to help within the metro area, from delivering meals to homebound senior citizens to serving as bell ringers for the Salvation Army. offers a curated selection of artisan-crafted goods from across the globe. The company’s mission is to help individuals and communities work toward lasting changes by altering systems and cycles that perpetuate poverty and economic disparity around the world.

To avoid bureaucracy and red tape, Accompany ensures its merchandise meets the standards in at least one of three areas: artisan made; fair trade (either certified or based on Accompany criteria); and/or supportive of humanitarian and philanthropic causes.

The goal is to bring together “human impact and fashion impact … to create feel-good goods through a look-good lens.”

Each item includes its backstory, allowing shoppers to select items that may carry a deeper meaning for the recipient.

One of my favorite ways to shift focus from “more stuff” is to give gifts that provide an experience.

For inspiration, go to and search the keyword “Experiences” (make sure you indicate your desired geographic area). Options include everything from learning a new language to dance classes, meals and even opportunities to do a ride-along in a race car.

In addition, Cloud 9 Living ( provides direct connections to a curated array of adventure-related activities like zip-lining, skydiving and flying lessons. The service offers thousands of gift options that don’t expire, with free returns and exchanges.

Golden writes The Courier’s weekly faith and values column. Email her at