ALEXANDRIA, VA (Dec. 22, 1999) -- In the bustle of the holiday, it is easy to forget how fortunate you are if you have health, family, friends, food, and a home. If you have these essentials, you're among a small minority in the world. A majority of people on the planet lack one of the above in adequate amounts. A majority of the 6 billion people on Earth live not only lacking food, shelter, or health, but a majority live in poverty as measured by American standards as well.

Most of us reading this column possess not only shelter, adequate food, and generally (I hope for all of us) good health, but we also have disposable income, a true rarity in the world. We have income to invest in stocks (for an even better future), or to invest in leisure time, or to invest in others.

Some people criticize Holiday giving as once-a-year, "false," forced generosity. Two-thirds of charitable giving, like two-thirds of retail shopping, takes place during the last three months of each year. The argument that giving during this time of year is "less than genuine" doesn't take into account the power of force of habit. If someone gives only once a year, over the holidays, it doesn't mean that the giving isn't genuine. This is the time of year that most people slow down, consider how fortunate they are, and give what they can (if they can) to others who they usually don't even know.

Over the year, most people give to others who are close to them, in family or in their working lives, in continuous small ways, ways that matter greatly nonetheless. A regular phone call. A friendly e-mail. A daily greeting that goes beyond the mere motions. It is over the holidays that many people think to give outside their circles. This is the time of year that the most resources are readily available for giving, and any way you cut it, there is no basis on which to call "giving" during this time of year insincere. Giving to strangers over the holidays is typically just an extension of the "giving" done by an already caring person year-round.

Since soon after its inception, The Motley Fool has made it easy to give online, and not only to give, but give to quality organizations -- organizations where your dollar will most certainly go to help others. This year, the Fool offers a choice of five charitable organizations to which you can contribute as little as $1, and as much as you wish. Any little bit helps someone out there, even if you never meet them.

Please consider giving to a charity offered by the Fool this year. For complete information and an easy way to give online right now, please check out the Motley Fool 1999 Charity Drive.

Have a great holiday season, Fools.