‘Tis the season, as they say, and this year’s hottest topic is GREEN. The planet is warming way too fast, so we’re being bombarded with ways to become environmentally responsible: get cloth shopping bags to replace plastic ones, install low-flushing toilets, build solar panels on our roofs, wear only clothing made of hemp, and get rid of those plastic water bottles and drink from the tap. Please don’t misunderstand. The earth is at risk and we all need to do something to save it and ourselves from extinction. Ditching those plastic bottles is the least we can do. There are many other frugal ways to spare the earth, but have you ever noticed that lots of the articles designed to help us conserve also involve buying more stuff? Barney’s “Green Christmas ” catalogue urging us to “join the green revolution” by “giving good green” features a hemp designer shopping bag for one hundred and some-odd dollars; though it pains me to diss Bono, that earth-friendly clothing line he and his wife designed is not featured at Target but at Saks Fifth Avenue; those water-saving toilets aren’t exactly cheap and let’s not even talk about installing solar panels!
Which brings me back to the season that ‘tis. How many catalogues filled with stuff you mostly don’t need or even want have glutted your mailbox over the past few weeks? A purely rhetorical question. (Go to cataloguechoice.org  to get rid of those you don’t want .) Most get tossed, but some are seductive enough to tempt us into buying still more, for ourselves, our kids, and others we care about. And then, of course, there are the stores. If you’re anything like me, some of this orgy of seasonal consumption provokes at least a twinge, if not a surge of guilt. For no matter how strained our budgets may be, most of us can still count ourselves among the more fortunate; we’re all too aware of those in this country and around the globe who have, compared to us, nothing.
And we’d like to give back. We really would. We’d like our kids to appreciate how lucky they are, to help them learn that not all children have enough food to eat, let alone toys to play with or families to protect them. But like becoming greener, it takes time. So most of us don’t take the kids to a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving (or on any other day, for that matter), don’t volunteer at a shelter, don’t do any of the other things that might “give back” even in a small way. Take heart. Here’s a way to make a difference, involve your kids, and not even leave your desk. It just takes a different kind of green. The old school kind.
Kiva.org  is the brainchild of two Stanford graduates who didn’t just want to give back, but figured out a way we could all become microfinanciers by making small loans to third world entrepreneurs. Do not pass go. Go directly to the site. When you get there you’ll see the stories of people striving to move out of poverty by starting their own businesses. For as little as twenty- five dollars, you (and your kids) can select a person and his or her project, make a donation, and then follow the progress of your loan until it’s repaid. One of the miracles of Kiva.org  is that the loans are indeed paid back, giving lenders the motivation to keep on giving to others who want to better their lives. Do this. Especially this season when we’re likely to overdo the indulgence all around and end up feeling slightly empty. Instead, help change a life. It will make you feel really, really good.
Jo Keroes received her PhD from Stanford University and was a Professor of English at San Francisco State University for more than 25 years. She writes the Books: Viewed and Reviewed  column for Mommy Track'd and is the author of Tales Out of School , Images of Teachers in Film and Fiction. She is also the mother of 2 daughters, including Amy Keroes, Founder & CEO of Mommy Track'd.