So, have you got any email like the one I got from a close friend last week?

"Due to the current economic state of our household, we are not able to send gifts.  I hope that you will not send anything as well.  I made deals with all friends not to do gift exchanges this year. It is uncomfortable to receive and not be able to give!  Thanks.

If you are in need of tax write offs and need to give a charitable donation.  My son's school is accepting donations.  I have proof of donation forms to be used for tax purposes.  The money helps with awards, celebrations and field trips.  Let me know of you are interested I can give more information to you."

How bad is it?

At the end of each year, it's natural to reflect on the year past and the year to come.  I feel incredibly fortunate for the last year, as it was yet another good one in my life.  In the more distant past I have dealt with challenging times, such as those reflected in the mail above.  So, what do I feel like doing over these holidays?

I do feel like spending money, but not at the mall.  Rather I am going to take my friend up on her request and I am going to open my checkbook and write out a large check to her son's school.  After that I am going to write some more checks - to children's charities that I support (Save the Children and the MONA Foundation).  I am really proud to work for a company that supports donations via a 100% internal match.  Then I am going to go to my closet, my bookshelves and anywhere in my house where I can pick some of stuff to donate.  After that I'll see if I can run in any 5k races to raise money to help those in need. 

Also the holidays is a time of year that I try to envision the possibilities (and start planning for the actions) for the team of technical volunteers that are working with the SmartCare project in Zambia.  Next year we hope to expand our work from supporting the development and nation-wide deployment of the SmartCare application to begin to work on technical training and readiness throughout the country.  It is our goal not only to help to implement a healthcare solution which will improve the longevity and quality of life for the population in Zambia, but also to work with local resources (both gov't and private sector) to assist in building technical training infrastructure via the universities, public training centers and gov't training facilities.

What about you?  What do the holidays mean to you?

Bad economy slows population growth in South, West