Leff’s Picks | December 2023
Odd gifts and causes that warm our hearts
During my childhood, I always looked forward to the magic of the holiday season. I remember the joy of seeing all the houses come alive with twinkling lights, baking cookies from old family recipes, and decorating our tree alongside my brothers. My strongest memory is of the excitement of Christmas morning, running downstairs to see what surprises Santa had left us. Amid these family traditions, there was another cherished ritual: our family’s annual sponsorship of a less fortunate family. Each year, my mom would take my brothers and me on a special shopping trip during which the three of us would pick out toys and clothes for the family we were supporting. I took this very seriously; it was my mission to bring a smile to their faces on Christmas morning. Even as a child, I always looked forward to this tradition, understanding early on that the act of giving could be just as, if not more, fulfilling than receiving.
In our December picks, we shine a light on causes that are close to our hearts and celebrate the odd gifts that unexpectedly brought us joy, showing that it’s the thought behind a gift that truly matters.
-Annie Hanigan, Marketing Coordinator
For nearly 20 years, I have been enrolled in The Sister Study, a longitudinal research effort conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. I and more than 53,000 other women across the United States and Puerto Rico who have had a sister with breast cancer have enrolled in this landmark research effort to find causes of breast cancer. Highlights of the research can be found here.
There’s nothing to say about Doctors Without Borders. The name covers it. Sure, the organization replicates at least some existing global inequities, including sexism and racism. But at least for now, it’s a major source of unbiased (?) humanitarian aid in areas of acute, howling human need. A few dollars should go its way.
DIRECTOR OF THE SUSTAINABILITY GROUP
GiveDirectly lets donors send money directly to the world’s poorest households. No donation is too small, and active programs include poverty relief, disaster relief, climate survival, and refugee aid. GiveDirectly believes that people living in poverty deserve the dignity to choose for themselves how best to improve their lives, which is why the organization provides cash. After decades of top-down interventions that have spent billions (or even trillions) of dollars on the poorly targeted provision of services, this approach marks a major step forward in the reduction of extreme poverty—as shown by an ever-growing body of rigorous research.
Weirdest Gift Ever Received
I received a “Crafting with Cat Hair” book during a white elephant exchange. I didn’t even have a cat at the time.
What does every child want for the holidays? If you said “ashtrays,” then maybe you shopped for me in the ’90s. I started receiving odd novelty ashtrays around age eight, and I still have a few after decades of cross-country moves.
Beware of what you confide to even your closest friends. Off the cuff, I once shared that snakes didn’t bother me and I even found them intriguing.