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My favorite Christmas gift… the giver

Meiko with her cards. Photo courtesy of Kari Costanza

Meiko with her cards.
Photo courtesy of Kari Costanza

Today we celebrate Thanksgiving, and share a special story from Kari Costanza, Communications Manager at World Vision. As part of our “My Favorite Christmas Gift…” series, Kari reminds us that the act of giving is just as important as the gift itself!

The World Vision gift catalog just arrived in the mailbox. Inside are chickens and ducks, cows and goats—animals that have made a world of difference to so many families I’ve met in my travels.The gift catalog has a very personal meaning for me. It is part of my family story. My children posed for one of the early gift catalogs. Claire, rascally even at 5, was wisely cast as a shepherd instead of an angel. Nick, then 10, was her happy shepherd brother.

One year my husband Tom, a videographer for World Vision, traveled around the world filming stories on gift catalog items. On Thanksgiving that year he was in Ecuador, eating guinea pig instead of turkey, and reporting stories on the tremendous value of llamas to families. As Advent began, he was in Cambodia sharing stories on girls rescued from sex tourism with help from the gift catalog. In Ethiopia, he visited a village with clean water, a gift from the catalog. My husband and I have seen with our own eyes how these gifts—big and small—can change lives.

But for me, the gift catalog is not about the gifts. It’s about the givers. My favorite gift catalog giver is Mieko, my sister-in-law and wonderful aunt to my children. I’ve kept cards from Mieko and my brother, David, announcing their gifts to my children.

One year they wrote: Dear Claire, You are now a llama mamma. Your llama lives in South America at the home of a grateful family.

And to Nick: You now have a new pet—a goat named Pedro.

I cherish these cards as I think of how carefully these items were picked for my children. They are gifts more long lasting than a sparkly bracelet or the latest Lego creation. Over the years, more gift catalog items have come to my family from David and Mieko. My sister received chickens to match the ones running around in her back yard. Mom, a teacher, got educational supplies.

This will be our second Christmas without Mieko. She died of cancer 19 months ago, leaving behind a menagerie of memories—chickens, goats, ducks, llamas—living all over the world, given in her name. In schools around the world, she is responsible for textbooks and maybe even a soccer ball or two. And of course, there are the gifts we don’t even know about—given to her friends and family in Tokyo. All from the gift catalog.

We miss Mieko beyond measure. She taught us something very important: Christmas isn’t about the gifts. It’s about the giving. And the gift catalog was her way to give through us to a hurting world.

Thank you, Mieko, for your many gifts. And thank you to everyone who gives through the catalog. You are making a difference you cannot possibly imagine.

Give a gift from World Vision’s Gift Catalog today!

This post has one comment

  1. carol williams says:

    Kari,
    Such a sweet story and it came at a time when our Women of Vision East Bay Chapter is getting ready for our Christmas Catalog event next Monday night. We have a tradition in our chapter that we center our Christmas gathering around telling stories about the gifts we give from the catalog and also share our interest with new women in our chapter. I plan to read your story at our event.

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