How to Know if You Are Really Helping a Tree or Tiger Certificates are all the rage as gifts. But how can you be sure that a tree was indeed planted, a textbook donated or a tiger sponsored in your name? Humorist Brian Unger suggests we need an international team of inspectors to verify all these gifts.
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How to Know if You Are Really Helping a Tree or Tiger

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How to Know if You Are Really Helping a Tree or Tiger

How to Know if You Are Really Helping a Tree or Tiger

How to Know if You Are Really Helping a Tree or Tiger

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/17316147/17316182" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Certificates are all the rage as gifts. But how can you be sure that a tree was indeed planted, a textbook donated or a tiger sponsored in your name? Humorist Brian Unger suggests we need an international team of inspectors to verify all these gifts.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

In this season of giving and getting, count on the Unger Report to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Here's our humorist Brian Unger with a little screed on modern business giving.

BRIAN UNGER: Will the boss hand out a bonus this year? An iPhone? Last year's poker set will be tough to beat. Each day that passes without the UPS man bringing forth the bounty fuels anticipation. The excitement builds. He is your personal Santa, but wearing brown. And one day he arrives. The UPS man hands over a wafer-thin envelope and inside - ho, ho, ho. A tree has been planted in Mexico in your name, or a dictionary was donated to a prison in your name. A donation was made to bottle-feed two kittens in your name.

This, the growing trend of the un-gift, in which the noble giver, like your boss, receives the gratitude and the glory for having given you a gift that was then given for you to someone else.

Now, no one is saying a child in Africa doesn't need a new mosquito net donated in your name. But your boss is headed to a five-star hut in Bora-Bora in his private jet. And through his or her generosity toward you, someone somewhere is eating a turkey dinner, donated in your name.

Thanks, I think.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with a needy family being fed a hot meal on Christmas day, donated in my name. But what did I give them to eat? Did I meet their dietary requirements? Did I send kosher? What if they were vegans or required a raw food yule log.

Exactly what hot meal did I send and how do I know it arrived hot? How do you know for sure that the legal support actually got to a cut flower worker in Central America who was fired for being pregnant or trying to unionize?

We need internationally sanctioned gift inspectors to search for all these alleged gifts given in our names. Think of these inspectors as the IAEA of Christmas. They're not looking for weapons of mass destruction; they're going into countries unfettered to verify that your boss did indeed ship a wheelchair to Ukraine, antibiotics to Gaza, or a cistern to Brazil.

Never mind the un-gift is not returnable and beyond modification. For instance, I don't know if I want a pregnant Central American woman fighting for her job in my name. That could be stressful for her and her unborn child.

The International Gift Inspection Agency, the IGIA, would work to make un-gifting verifiable to you and suitable for the receiver, and reduce the despotic tyranny of the giver.

But I'd like to thank my boss for placing a koala bear in a bamboo rescue forest in Australia, in my name. That was very nice of him - I'm pretty sure.

And that is today's Unger Report. I'm Brian Unger.

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