A different kind of sacrifice...
One of the rites of the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) is the sacrifice of an animal, often a goat, sometimes a sheep, or even a cow, and the distribution of the meat. This ritual, obviously, encourages us to loosen our attachments to our worldly possessions, and to consider the needs of those who have less than we do.
Nonetheless, there has been much debate in the Muslim world over this -- is it an extravagant waste, or a ritual that benefits the most needy in society? Should we observe this ritual, or abandon it as something that no longer makes sense in a society full of Muslims.
People on the pro side are quick to point out that in many Muslim countries, extreme poverty is a huge problem; the sacrifices made and then distributed as charity during Hajj season provide what for some is a once a year taste of meat.
On the anti side, the argument runs that as it is much meat goes to waste as far too many animals are slaughtered at the same time. If every adult Muslim sacrificed an animal (or had one slaughtered) the streets would be stacked with rotting meat a few days later.
While many Muslims in the US follow the tradition of having an animal slaughtered, many do not. Many of those who do, don't actually go out and perform a sacrificial rite, but pay for an animal to be slaughtered overseas, and the meat distributed for charity.
For those of us who don't participate in this rite, and even those of us who do, perhaps a different sort of sacrifice is in order. Sacrificing an animal costs money -- the price of the animal, the cost of the butcher to sacrifice it. Perhaps it would be better to take that same money (or to set it aside if you weren't planing to spend it) and use it to sponsor a live animal for a family in need. That way, your sacrifice won't just provide a meal once a year, but will provide milk, or eggs; kids, or calves or chicks to sell, or raise and eat. It can be the first step to self-sufficiency for a whole family.
Giving a live animal may not be the letter of the ritual, but it sure seems appropriate to the spirit of it. That and the true spirit of charity -- while food is needed when someone is starving, how much better to help them never go hungry again?