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5 Tithing Ideas for the Writer in Your Life

December 7, 2009


You find true joy and happiness in life when you give and give

and go on giving and never count the cost.


via Anita Grant

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that $700 million was spent on unwanted Christmas presents in 2005. What if that $700 million dollars were spent on something worthwhile? What if there was a way to create a simpler more humanitarian Christmas?

A few years ago, in one of the free holistic magazines I picked up at one of the shops I frequented, I was introduced  to the idea of tithing. Tithing puts spirit and meaning, back into the act of Christmas giving – donating something meaningful and worthwhile in leui of a present. Tithing can occur on numerous levels from donating the entire Christmas budget to something more akin to a Kris Kringle type set up. While some of the more popularly known tithes include donating a goat or a prosthetic limb for an amputee – there are ways in which we can adapt the idea of tithing around the act of writing.

Here are four ideas for tithing on behalf of the writer in your life.

Donate to your local Chapter of International PEN

“Promoting Literature, Defending Freedom of Expression”

My first exposure to International PEN was via Sydney PEN at the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival and the tradition of the Empty Chair.

Founded in 1921 International PEN’s original goal was to promote literature. Today the organisation works to promote:

friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers to fight for the freedom to read and the freedom to write, and to act as a powerful voice for writers everywhere.

International PEN runs programs to assist writers who are in detention or are imprisoned, as well as education, literacy, library and community access programs across the globe.

You can find out more about your local chapter of PEN and or make a donation at the links below.


Donate a Book

As we were walking across the Victoria Bridge today there was a homeless man sitting reading in the scant shade of the bridge railing. He’s probably partly the inspiration for this article today.

To me a book is a lifelong gift, and as such, in my way of thinking, the best gift you can give. Most of the large department stores and charitable organisations run collection appeals for presents in the lead up to Christmas. Donate on behalf of the writer in your life, a copy of their favourite book, so someone else can experience the joy of reading. Or even better, if you belong to a family of book lovers and writers, get each member to donate a book and create a tradition.

A quick search on the web turned up:

The Smith Family Christmas Appeal (Aust)

Book Aid International (International)

Donate to a Literacy Program

When I started work in behaviour management in 2000, I was appalled at the number of students starting high school without the most basic reading and writing skills. Sadly, my state, Queensland has one of the highest illiteracy rates in Australia. Illiterate children find it almost impossible to participate in normal classes and are more likely to drop out of school early. Without intervention they go on to become  illiterate adults, for whom the world is not their oyster.

The Literacy Project has a wonderful project locator, where you can zoom in on your country to find local literacy projects/centres or search through the list of innovative literacy projects and programmes being run across the world.

For those Aussie readers, you could consider a donation to the Indigenous Literacy Project under the auspice of the Fred Hollows Foundation. For those readers scattered across the world, perhaps you can suggest a project in your area in the comments box.

Donate to the Office of Letters & Light

The Office of Letters and Light organizes events where:

children and adults find the inspiration, encouragement, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential. Our programs are web-enabled challenges with vibrant real-world components, designed to foster self-expression while building community on local and global levels.

For those non-writers who may have found their way here via a secret squirrel email link – The Office of Letters and Light are the wonderful fiends behind National Novel Writing Month in November and Script Frenzy in April. They run a parallel program in November called the Young Writers Program. If the writer in your life participates in anyof these events, a donation would be a fantastic idea. Donations start at $10 and go up to as much as $2,500.

Adopt A Word

“Giving words a happy home”

Adopt A Word is a brilliant scheme set up by I CAN, a charitable organisation in the UK, which assists children with communication issues.

I CAN say:

Communication difficulties are not life threatening, but they are life limiting: children who find communication hard find life hard.

I CAN is here to ensure that no child’s potential is needlessly wasted because of a difficulty with speaking, understanding or interacting.

I CAN run specialist schools for children with severe communication issues whose needs cannot be met in mainstream schooling, provide assessments for families, train teachers and childcare workers and work towards increasing awareness and understanding of the problem.

For those passionate about words there could be no better gift than the year long adoption of their favourite word. Adoption costs £20 (US$33 or AUS$36). If you are in the UK they will send you out an adoption package, beyond the UK shores I CAN emails a PDF version of the adoption certificate.

Dave if on some odd coincidence you happen to be reading this… “whisperings” please!

How to Give?

The Australian website The Tithing Tree has lots of great ideas for how to go about giving a present which is not “present”. They also have a wonderful e-card system to allow you to send the writer in your life a card letting them know about your gift.

What other ideas do you have which embrace the act of writing and tithing?

Jodi Cleghorn enjoyed the hit on Friday evening of Adopting a Word for a fellow writer and friend in New York after seeing Stephen Fry tweet about it.  The site was then flooded by traffic. Nothing like a high profile patron to drive traffic to your website. In leui of a high profile patron… hang out with me at Writing in Black and White.
  1. December 7, 2009 5:22 am

    I really like the idea of donating to the Indigenous literacy project. These are all great ideas, and PEN are a great organisation to support. I saw the empty chair at the Melbourne Writers Festival this year and it’s a chilling symbol.

  2. December 7, 2009 5:34 am

    The empty chair is a pretty profound statement – like you say “chilling”.

  3. December 7, 2009 5:37 pm

    brilliant ideas Jodi – really bringing the spirit back into giving – taking out the commercialism of what most peopel now see the season being about.

  4. December 8, 2009 6:05 am

    Braille Books for the blind is another worthy way to donate books. All great ideas here, thanks!

  5. December 12, 2009 5:22 pm

    “wonderful fiends” behind NaNoWriMo? That was funny! and sometimes typos CAN be fun.

    But in all seriousness, I love this post. Thank you for the inspiration!

  6. December 14, 2009 4:19 am

    Joni B – it was intended to be “fiends” not “friends” – friends don’t put you through the gruelling paces that the lovely folk at The Office of Letters and Lights do.

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