With just a week to go, Christmas is definitely in the air! With Christmas parties and programs going on, Santa appearances around town and last minute Christmas shopping to do, you can’t help but feel festive this time of year. It is that “good cheer” we sing about in Christmas carols. Along with all the joy that the Christmas season brings, it also brings about the spirit of giving in people. It is the time of year that our attention turns outward as we identify all those special people in our lives and seek to find that perfect gift just for them.
In turning outward, it allows us to think about those that may not be in the same place, financially, and those with Christmas wishes going unfulfilled this year. Christmas seems to be the opportune time for charitable giving as organizations announce ways in which people can give back to the community or give to those in need- from year-end giving to #GivingTuesday campaigns, from toy drives to sponsoring families for Christmas. With all this good cheer and joy and unselfishness in the air, it is catching. That is why this season is coined the season of giving, is it not?
Generally, people want to give because it feels good to give, but too often, what keeps us from the joy of giving is the not knowing of how our gift will be used or spent. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is essential for organizations to be accountable and responsible with donor dollars, but what I am talking about is deeper than that. It is like sponsoring a family for Christmas but wanting them to open the gifts in front of you so can directly see the benefit-so we can participate in that moment and see the glitter in their eyes as they open their gift. Think about that moment your loved ones eyes light up because they received a gift from you-it feels good doesn’t it. This is what drives us to give-that moment- and in our pursuit of that we sometimes forget that that moment may not belong to us and that is what prevents us from giving freely.
Think about that family who could not afford gifts for their child but someone sponsored them for Christmas. Imagine those kids opening up those gifts on Christmas morning and their parents get to enjoy that moment. That is their moment. Think about that elderly widow alone in her room praying for a visitor and then a youth group comes to spend the afternoon and brings Christmas gifts. Imagine her eyes lighting up as she reminisces about her younger days. That is their moment. Some moments just do not belong to us even if we helped make it happen. That is the true spirit of giving.
Too often we give with expectations and I challenge us all this Christmas season to give freely, with no strings attached.
Here are a few ideas to get us started:
- Go to one of the local food banks and hand out gift cards for local stores. This will allow people to buy something for those they love. If you can, along with the gift card, give a roll of tape, wrapping paper and a name tag.
- Go to a pharmacy and pay the copay on someone’s medicine. You will make their day!
- Send puzzles, cards and games to the prison near you. We have more youth and adults in cages than any other country. Most cannot read at 8th grade level and almost half have untreated mental health issues. This is one small way to help people behind bars keep their sanity.
- Go to Salvation Army and tell them you want to pay utilities for someone who has a 72 hour notice. You do not have to get their name (confidential) but they can randomly select someone who is about to lose their water or electricity.
- Wrap some fun gifts for seniors and go to your local senior citizens center. Hand them out randomly and make someone’s day.
- Find the school with the highest free and reduced lunch and offer to come in to share with the kids what you do to earn a living. The isolation of poverty perpetuates it.
- Go to a Laundromat in a high poverty neighborhood. Bring gift bags of treats and gift cards for local shops.