A long time ago my friends and I decided that white elephant gift exchanges and ornament exchanges were a waste of money. We all have more ornaments than we can fit on our trees and, in the season of giving, finding obnoxious gifts that no one really wants just isn't our style.
However, we still love to eat, drink and be merry... and so we had a thought. What if we, a large group of women, took the money we would otherwise have collectively spent on ornaments or cheesy gifts and put it to better use.
And so it was born, our annual tradition. One part cookie exchange, one part raffle, one part cocktail party and one part fundraiser.
When you walk into the party you immediately contribute whatever cash you're comfortable contributing to "the bucket". You also put your name in for the fabulous door prize drawing which happens later in the evening. We busy ourselves with cocktails and catching up and eventually we get cookies... in a very serious process that's taken years to perfect (read: minimize cat fights over the most beautifully packaged cookies). The door prizes are given away and then, finally, a name is drawn for the charity bucket. She whose name is drawn gets to decide to which charity the evening's proceeds will be donated.
This year, in a year where money is tight for everyone, the cash bucket seemed noticeably fuller. That's just the kind of women my friends are, though, they know where charity really begins.
The evening was as lovely as ever this year, right up until the charity bucket moment, that is. A name was drawn and a winner announced. She was over the moon, as if she'd won the lottery and the money was hers to keep. "SR," she gasped, naming the local children's hospital, "I choose SR!" As quickly as the words left her mouth, our other friend emerged from the crowd with tears in her eyes and hugged our winner saying thank you repeatedly... our friend who came so close to losing her child two months ago that the doctors themselves have called it a miracle... our friend whose son is alive today because of those doctors and that hospital. A friend who has used her son's story to help the hospital raise much needed funds. And so, you see, the evening instantly became lovelier than ever before because we were suddenly, painfully, yet also joyfully, reminded not only of how powerful it is to give but also that charity does, indeed, begin at home.