This seems like as good a time as any to start a Lost Albatross tradition of giving--or, in this case, lending. I've set up a "lending team" through Kiva.org, a great non-profit site that connects people across the world through what are called microloans. I'll let them explain the process:
...the associated evenings of those twelve days (Twelve-tide), are the festive days beginning the evening of Christmas Day through the morning of Epiphany (January 6). The associated evenings of the twelve days begin on the evening before the specified day. Thus, the first night of Christmas is December 25–26, and Twelfth Night is January 5–6. This period is also known as Christmastide.The 12 days has its origins in the pre-Christian Scandinavian Winter Solstice, in which the Midwinter Feast lasted at least twelve days, hence the twelve days of Christmas.
Go check out the site, look around a little, and please consider signing up to make a loan. Then when you do, you can opt to have your loan count toward the total for the Lost Albatross lending team! All repayments still go directly to you, but your efforts will be part of our little network, too.
Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.
Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.
The people you see on Kiva's site are real individuals in need of funding - not marketing material. When you browse entrepreneurs' profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else in need.
This is the traditional time of year to think about giving, but I hope to continue these efforts into the "off-season" as well. I can't think of a better way to really help people get on their feet and then to sustain themselves. Instead of just giving a single gift, we're helping people in need to be able to provide for themselves and their communities in the long-term. And that, I think, is what it's all about.
Please consider signing up with Kiva, and joining the Lost Albatross team. And regardless, happy holidays!