Gifts next to the tree, originally uploaded by busybeingborn.

The best thing you can give won’t have any bows or ribbons.

Christmas reminds me that I could be a more giving person, that I could spend more time with the aged, the young, the hungry, the suffering. Not in my nature to be that kind of person.

Yet if you were to ask me “So Tom, how do I start me a blog,” I could give till you’re blue in the face. If you were to ask how to hike off a few extra pounds, how to pick the best of 100 shots from your vacation, how to get a newspaper section to the press on time, you might find me generous to a fault.

I take a lot from the world … I use more fossil fuels than I have any hope of replacing. I eat food irrigated from precious natural water sources; I use products manufactured in distant nations where forests and rivers are being fouled so somebody can turn a buck selling me this stuff at “affordable” prices (which are merely a discount against the cost of repairing the damage down the road).

None of us give back as much as we could, or even what we should. But we should be giving back something. And just as the weight of everything you put in a backpack adds up, the weight of everything we do adds up too.

I don’t think I’m entirely self-deluded to believe that I’ve been doing at least a little bit of good in the world by posting pictures from the outdoors and writing about walking in the woods. At the very least I’m distracting people from further degrading the earth, and at best I’m encouraging them to get out in their own woods and maybe come to realize why we need these wild places.

Want to give something worth having? How about a down payment on giving your great-great-great-great granddaughter a planet as good as the one we’ve got now? You don’t need to be a tree-spiking enviro-terrorist to believe future generations have as much right to a livable planet as we do.

Call that my Christmas wish: that folks wake up and realize we’re not merely taking what’s here today for ourselves, we’re stealing it from those who come after us.