Buy Dad A Rat for Father's Day…Seriously

The last thing most dads needs is another tie. Like most men these days, my husband doesn’t even wear ties to work (or ever).

Why not come up with a truly original present that will impress Dad and help to make the world a better place at the same time?

In a compelling Op-Ed piece in The New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof argues that Father’s Day is too wrapped up in consumerism. Instead of buying more crap your spouse likely doesn’t need, you’d be better off contributing to a worthy cause.

Here’s where the rats come in. Not just any rat, but a 30-inch long (including tail) African giant pouched rat trained to detect landmines in Africa. How cool is that?

Not only can these amazing creatures clear as much land in 20 minutes as a human can in two days, but they can apparently also detect cases of tuberculosis.

“What man wouldn’t pass up a necktie for the chance to be associated with an educated, supermacho giant rat? For just $36, you can buy a year’s supply of bananas to feed one of these rats. Or, for a gift more on the risqué side, $100 will buy a ‘love nest’ for a breeding pair of rats,” writes Kristof.

Both options are available at www.globalgiving.com, a site that allows donors to make donations to aid projects around the world.

Kristof gripes (and I agree) that “Father’s Day tends to be less a celebration of fatherhood than a triumph of commercialism.” In fact, The National Retail Federation projects that Americans will spend $9.8 billion on Father’s Day this year — a scary number considering that it is enough money to pay for a primary education for every child around the world who isn’t already in school.

We spend $750 million annually on store-bought cards alone. Couldn’t that money be used to fund more worthwhile cause?

Kristof lists a few worthy organizations:

The National Fatherhood Initiative, www.fatherhood.org, support dads and helps to keep them involved in their children’s lives.

The Black Star Project, www.blackstarproject.org, helps low-income families become more involved in their kids’ education.

World of Money, www.worldofmoney.org, teaches poor kids basic financial and business skills.

The National Urban Technology Center, www.urbantech.org, helps poor kids learn computer skills.

Riders for Health, www.riders.org, provides vehicles for healthcare workers in Africa so they can reach more patients.

“It’s a rare dad who would choose a store-bought card over a homemade card; or for that matter, a necktie over a gigantic, bomb-sniffing rat,” writes Kristof.

My dad already has a charity picked out: Heroes on Horseback, www.heroesonhorseback.org, a therapeutic riding program for disabled kids and adults where he volunteers.

And I know my husband will be happy with a handmade card from the kids, breakfast in bed, and a donation to a good cause in his honor. I’m sure he’ll be psyched to hear all about the bomb-sniffing rat!

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alex-s/

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