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Churches all across the world are joining a conspiracy.

According to, more than 1,000 congregations worldwide are celebrating Christmas by spending less and giving more.

With the money saved, people will be sending donations to charitable organizations that drill wells for villages without clean water.

Religious or not, this is a good idea.

We all have those people on our list to whom we give gifts out of obligation. Or those who are so picky that we almost have an anxiety attack on Christmas morning as they peel away the wrapping paper and pass the verdict about whether they find the gift acceptable or not.

The best memories of Christmas usually center around time spent with people. Whether it’s the crazy shopping trip on Black Friday, making gingerbread houses, going caroling, watching “Elf,” “The Christmas Carol” or the cheesy “Santa Clause” movies, drinking hot chocolate by a crackling fire, going to an ugly sweater party or having a snowball fight — it’s the time and people that make it unforgettable. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you most of the presents I’ve received over the years no matter how large or small.

It’s been said Americans spend $450 billion on Christmas. If we gave one less present this year and gave that money to a charity, could you imagine what may happen?

Cities without clean water could get wells, communities stricken by AIDS could get relief, and needy children could get their first Christmas gift. We could be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and the world could be a better place.

Other ways to spend less could also mean giving your “presence” instead of “presents.” I’m all for brown paper packages tied up with string and small teal boxes wrapped with white ribbons, but at the same time, it’s the gifts of time spent together that I remember.

Rather than just exchanging gift cards with siblings, how about planning a shopping trip together? Or what about instead of giving dad the newest tie or HD TV — get him tickets to the Fiesta Bowl, a Broadway show, or just take him out to dinner?

This is not an excuse to cop out or be a Scrooge. This is the season for giving — but instead of being chained to the obligations of Christmas lists, we can join the conspiracy.

By discovering what’s important to people and giving of our time and “presence,” we will be able to give more and spend less. And with the money we don’t charge away on our credit cards, we can help those hurting across the globe.

Take a mental inventory of your most favored Christmas memories. Do any consist of just you and your newly unwrapped present spending all of Christmas Day together? I’m guessing not.

It’s more than packages, boxes and bags. Even Mr. Grinch was puzzled to think it might come without tags. It’s when, as Dr. Seuss said, “the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

By spending less, we can all give more.

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