Every year around Chrismanukah, I get the sense that we don’t score very well on the “giving back” scale . Sure, we donate our stuff to the Salvation Army and shelters, and there are the occasional donations to such liberal causes as catch me off-guard when I’m shopping at the farmer’s market, but other than those things, and the various toy/food drives at the boys’ schools…

Every year I contemplate finding some kind of community service project that we can all do together and every year my initiatives fall short – I won’t bore you with the reasons why other than to say it’s the standard litany of not enough time/energy/there was a soccer game.

This year, though, I got the message. Or rather, I got the twitters from Motherhood in NYC and Mamabird Diaries and a few other places…twitters that reminded me that the gift of livestock is always appropriate and (almost) always fits. One could, if pressed, keep a family of ducks in the bathtub, for instance, or graze your pig in the trash room of your building, probably.

I convened the boys and showed them the websites from Oxfam and Heifer International and we talked about what we might buy as a gift for another family, and how much of their saved allowances they could contribute. They decided that if they each put in ten bucks, they could buy a flock of geese–and then they decided that Mommy and Daddy should buy a goat.  So we pointed and clicked at geese and goats, the boys handed me their money, and voila, we had our moment of community service.

It’s a start, right? I mean, I don’t know that the boys really understand what it’s all about–that we have so much, relatively speaking, and so many have so little–and I will continue to search for more sustained modes of community service, but at least that’s ten bucks that didn’t go to more plastic doodads.

Now I just have to figure out where to put the goat.