Tag Archives: local economy

Turn ‘Black Friday’ into Golden Generosity

“Black Friday” represents good shopping deals to some, and the cash register ringing for retailers when their bottom line goes from red to black, but for me it’s become a day symbolizing what’s rotten about the USA and I can’t pretend to hide my scorn.

Few realize the origin of “Black Friday” —

The first recorded use of the term “Black Friday” was applied not to holiday shopping but to financial crisis: specifically, the crash of the U.S. gold market on September 24, 1869. Two notoriously ruthless Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, worked together to buy up as much as they could of the nation’s gold, hoping to drive the price sky-high and sell it for astonishing profits. On that Friday in September, the conspiracy finally unraveled, sending the stock market into free-fall and bankrupting everyone from Wall Street barons to farmers.

The modern version spells bad news for the climate, the economy and the human spirit. But rather than itemize the doom and gloom of crass consumerism and why it’s so bad for our souls and the planet, I’m sharing some tips for alternative “shopping” if people have greenbacks in their wallets. Avoid your credit cards. If you don’t have the cash in hand, you shouldn’t be caught up in holiday shopping of any kind. Sit down, stretch your imagination and make your gifts.

Two years ago, I blogged about gift ideas from my perch in Cairo, see here.

Idea #1 – Remember the refugees.

More than 20 million refugees have fled their homes. Most are living in dire circumstances today, caught between violence, disease, lack of security and respect, and an uncertain future. Treat yourself and family to Ai WeiWei’s documentary ‘Human Flow’ perhaps playing at a theatre near you.  The filmmaker suggests some actions we can take, check it here.  (My sister has been making microloans with Kiva for years. I’m going to follow her example.)

A store is opening in London, the first of its kind, where shoppers can stop by and purchase gifts for refugees. The retail space has been donated by a real estate investment trust. The organization, Help Refugees, will get the gifts into the hands of refugees and an online store is planned soon. If you’re not in London, you can donate here.

Friends in Washington, DC can purchase a Palestinian falafel sandwich for $3 and a portion of each dollar will be sent to help feed refugees worldwide. Check it out here.

Give a gift to a Palestine refugee through UNRWA-USA, the agency that’s been working closely with refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Check out the button on the top right corner here.

If you have the time, flexibility and desire to help refugees directly, there are many opportunities. I recommend Advocates Abroad currently operating in Greece.

Idea #2 – Double the impact.

Good journalism requires eyeballs and subscribers. Give holiday subscriptions to family and friends. You’ll be supporting the journalism you appreciate and sending a subtle message to the gift recipients where their attention should be focused.  Of course, a digital subscription is preferable.

My favorite recommendations include:

Yes! Magazine — “YES! Magazine reframes the biggest problems of our time in terms of their solutions.”

The Nation and the Christian Science Monitor are my two picks for keeping informed on international and local news.

Idea #3 – The children in your life.

This might be the toughest part of holiday giving, at least for me. I remember my own childhood and unwrapping tons of gifts Santa had spread under the tree. I want children today to feel the same anticipation and excitement.

Olive harvest and children

Children in Gaza – 2013

Children everywhere need security, love, education, a planet that can sustain them, and adults who respect their needs today and in the future. If the TV commercials would only drum that message into consumers’ heads rather than the latest iPhone 10 and electronic gadgets.

Books are a good gift for any age, and if you can find them at your local independent bookstore, that’s even better.

P for Palestine

P is for Palestine – A Palestine Alphabet Book sold out within days of its launch in November 2017 but you can preorder your copy of the second edition for delivery in Spring 2018 here.

Other titles to consider:

White and Black – Political Cartoons from Palestine by Mohammad Sabaaneh (2017) for teens and adults.

The Last Earth – A Palestinian Story by Ramzy Baroud (2017) has not been released yet but can be pre-ordered here.

The Anteater and the Jaguar by Rayek R. Rizek (2017) is another book I’m ordering. It’s available on Amazon.

In addition to books, give your time to the children in your life. Itemize your talents (cooking, drawing, story-telling, sewing, knitting, hiking, writing, photography, fishing, etc.) and prepare a home-made gift certificate with a promise to share your talent with your child in a real and meaningful way.

Family photo album with names, dates and stories about family members is a gift I wish I’d received as a child, and I wish I’d given to my own. My family photos are scattered in boxes in storage now.

Time with the children is the best gift any parent can give any child of any age. Their time is priceless because many parents are working two jobs just to put food on the table. Carving out a day, a weekend, or an hour every evening just for your child may be challenging, but the effort will reap rewards for everyone. (This goes for Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, and everyone else.)


Photo Credit: Michelle Lake 

Idea #4 – Put your money where your heart is.

I don’t believe our hearts reside in Wal Mart #1 retailer, Costco #2 retailer, or Kroger #3 retailer in the U.S.  Shop with thoughtful intention during this holiday season and every day.

Chain store proliferation has weakened local economies, eroded community character, and impoverished civic and cultural life. Moreover, consolidation has reduced competition and may harm consumers over the long-term. See here and here.

Remember, you’re the role model for your family and friends. Happy Holidays!




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Resources for my New Year’s Resolution

My New Year’s Resolution (see here) may sound ambitious.  Changing the world seems like a little too much to bite off.  Impossible, actually. 

So I start with myself.  What can I do?

  • Hang my clothes on the lineclothesline

I don’t believe anyone in Gaza has a dryer. In the middle of winter, we hang our clothes on the line either inside the apartment or on the balcony.  Every American should be doing the same.   Stanford University says so.

  • Join others who care about changing our direction, there are many worthwhile groups. The important thing is that none of us are alone in this struggle.  Personally, I recommend Bill McKibben’s grassroots organization that has gone viral around the globe …. it’s called 350.org.

350 logo

  • Spend my $$ where it makes the most difference.  Consumers can make a huge difference in shifting the marketplace in the right direction just by being very thoughtful where we spend our money.  This requires time and research. My telephone company is one very good example.  CREDO is a socially-responsible company that reinvests its earnings in organizations that I believe are changing the world. 


  • Walk more, drive less.    Yes, it may be easier for some people to do than others.  We certainly have not been building walkable communities for the past 50-60 years in the USA. 

I deliberately moved to a neighborhood in 1994 which would allow me to give up my car, even in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I have been carfree for 15 years.  I’m probably in better health too.  I walk or ride my bicycle to the grocery store and regularly ride the bus.  And I continue to bitch at city leaders who prefer to spend MILLIONS on enlarging a highway interchange. 

In February 2012, I invited Charles Marohn from Strong Towns to speak to Albuquerque city leaders because he has great ideas to help build more walkable communities. 

Charles Marohn,Executive Director of Strong Towns

Charles Marohn,
Executive Director of Strong Towns

So far as I can see, the idea of a local economy rests upon only two principles: neighborhood and subsistence. In a viable neighborhood, neighbors ask themselves what they can do or provide for one another, and they find answers that they and their place can afford. This, and nothing else, is the practice of neighborhood. This practice must be, in part, charitable, but it must also be economic, and the economic part must be equitable; there is a significant charity in just prices.

  • Ditch the Chamber of Commerce.   The most regressive organization in the United States today (besides the fossil fuel industry) is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Check to see if there is a Green Chamber in the community, like in Albuquerque, and support it if you can.
  • Audit energy use in the house.   In my old house (an adobe built in the 1890s) it has been a challenge.  Over the past 10-12 years I have installed new windows, insulated the attic, and fixed other areas where energy was leaking.  My next goal is to install solar panels.  I want to be energy independent as much as possible.  There are many energy audit checklists online, but don’t do the audit by yourself.  That’s no fun.
  • Raise chickens.   I started with five chicks in 2011, but one wandered off.  My learning curve was very high that first year.  Ha!   My friend built the coop, and I collected 4 eggs every morning, like clockwork.  My neighbors love it!
Lora's chickens and chicken coop.

Lora’s chickens and chicken coop.

  • Fix, repair and mend.   Our disposable culture must end.  I have to confess I was probably one of the biggest sinners in this regard.  It was much easier to buy something new than to take the time to repair it.  Hopefully, I have mended my ways.

Why are these ideas relevant to Gaza and the subject of this blog?

Because Americans and Palestinians and Israelis and everyone else share a single planet.  There’s no “new” planet waiting in the wings when we mess this one up.   Our consumption and bad habits in the USA directly impact my friends in Gaza.  We need to clean up our act . . .  quickly . . . if we want to live within the doughnut, my New Year’s Resolution.

The Doughnut

The Doughnut

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