Dear Dr. Elia,I really enjoy reading your articles, but my question is a little different than the normal ones you've been answering: How do you handle all of the solicitations for donations to very worthwhile causes that come your way each year around Christmas time? It just seems like it never ends, from requests at church to help provide dinners at Thanksgiving and sub for Santa at Christmas, to a family member who has someone in their ward selling homemade Christmas ornaments to help raise money to take the trip to the temple in Ghana. Of course, there are many others like toy drives, panhandlers and other fundraisers. You want to help people go to the temple and have a happy holiday, and of course you pay tithing and other contributions, but honestly, when is enough, enough? I know that it's tough economic times for everyone ... I've seen it and heard it a million times. You want to be able to provide a nice holiday for your family and you want to help the many others who are in need, but there are all of these causes that stretch the budget tighter than originally planned. How do you decide who to help and who not to, without feeling guilty?Thank you and Merry Christmas,Angie


Dear Angie, You're right, this is different than most questions I get, but I like it! You bring up some very interesting and timely points as we approach this Christmas season. As a result of the difficult economic times that we're enduring, I too have noticed an increase in charitable solicitations as compared with years past. Don't you wish we had an endless supply of money so we could donate to all of them? I'm afraid that most of us are not in a position to help all these requests. So how can we choose wisely, knowing fully well that not all requests can be accommodated? Most of us have a certain holiday budget to work with, so take a look at the financial considerations from these solicitations. I suggest that you prayerfully consider all the requests first and prioritize them based on needs versus wants. At this time in our economy, some needs don't even get met, so wants should be a much lower priority. For example, you could come across a great need, but it might wipe out your budget completely, so it might be more practical and have a greater impact to set it aside for two or three other considerations of your liking that would fit your budget. This might also be a great opportunity for a family council to teach the children about budgets and charity. First, discuss privately with your spouse about what you both agree would be a reasonable total amount for your family to donate to charity this year (aside from tithing). With that amount in mind, meet with your children and discuss the various good places this money could be donated: from church missionary, humanitarian, or perpetual education funds, to ward fundraisers, world micro-loan organizations, or even the neighbor down the street who's lost his job and can't afford to buy his family Christmas gifts this year. It's good for children to learn that there are many more worthwhile places to give to than there is money available. And let them help you decide .... then stick to that list. When someone else asks for a donation, politely tell them that your family has already decided upon their donations for this year, but that you would be happy to consider them for next year.Although a lot of the requests are monetary based, some others might require our sacrifice in terms of time spent. As most of us know, volunteering for a good cause has multiple benefits. You get to experience first hand the fruits of your labor — working side by side with other volunteers and serving others has many rewards. Last Christmas, our family went to our local Emergency Family Assistance center. We called ahead and asked what they needed, and with the list in hand, we went shopping to a food warehouse. The kids were so excited, and it was the first time taking them shopping that they didn't ask for something for themselves! They excitedly put everything in the car, and we drove to the center. The best part was the next several hours we spent stocking the food, helping those in need to shop at the center (imagine something like the cannery we have at church). The time we spent together made it for a memorable day. On the way home, there was a spirit in our car unlike anything we had experienced before. The kids were so excited about everyone they had met and helped and couldn't wait to go back. I realize writing a check is a lot easier and more convenient at times. Giving of ourselves, our time and making a direct contribution is worth the effort — the true meaning of Christmas comes to life — to share goodwill, kindness and love with our brothers and sisters from all walks of life. In the end, we do all that we can and accept that we will not be able to fulfill all the requests. Let us be grateful for the service opportunities we're given. Also remember that someone else will probably contribute to the ones we weren't able to. We don't need to do it all, and we certainly don't need to feel guilty about it. This is the time to rejoice and remember the ultimate gift we have all received: our Savior's love!