Village Matters


Gift-giving Perfected

My Aunt Margaret always said, “Please, don’t get me a present for Christmas.  I don’t want anything!” As a child this mystified me.  How could anyone not want some of those sparkling treasures under the tree?

Now I see another side.  There she was, the last remaining maiden aunt in the family home, living with all of the items her parents and siblings had left. She had to deal with things too good and with too many memories to throw away, yet a burden just the same.

Alfredo is the world’s best recycler and discoverer of items too good to throw away. He made the gate at the community garden out of bed frames he found in an alley.  Now he has retrieved some of the treated wood we need for the garden stairs from a dumpster.  Other items he finds, like a chair cover with a spot on it, a car cover that doesn’t fit our cars, new fabric still on the bolt…are indeed to good to throw out, but they create an obligation to find a use or another home for them.  Instead of operating an abandoned pet rescue, we run an abandoned sort-of-useful item rescue service.


So I hate to say it, but with all the found items constantly coming to our house, along with so many family things passed down, I am becoming a bit like Aunt Margaret.  Receiving more, or going out to shop to buy more things that someone else will have to find a place for, seems counterproductive.  “Where will you put it?” has become my refrain.


With his uncanny ability to find almost anything one might need at garage sales or on trash day, Alfredo has little appreciation for ordinary gifts. Forget shirts or any kind of clothes; he already has wonderful ones he has found.  My most appreciated gifts to him were detailing for his truck and a window for his camper shell. How many of this kind of gift can you think up?


Which brings us to gifts that are really needed—for people and animals and causes that are asking for our help.  Right here in Laguna, we can see our gifts making someone healthier (Laguna Beach Community Clinic), helping homeless people improve their lives (Friendship Shelter and the Resource Center), providing medical care for sick and injured animals (RUFF), protecting wildlife and open space (Laguna Greenbelt and the Laguna Canyon Foundation). And many more.  A complete list and contact information is available thanks to the Laguna Beach Community Alliance (, which is providing this directory service (click on “Pocket Guide”.)


Our community sees a need and tries to fill it.  We can all help, giving of our time and our dollars.  A deep-seated cure for what ails our society can be found with compassion and generosity, spreading the joy of life with our caring.


Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former mayor.

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