Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. II Corinthians 9:7, NIV
It’s the most wonderful time of the year; but sometimes I can’t help but get a little blue around the holiday season. I think of all the waste and all of the material things, and it makes me wonder if people are looking at that man on the street corner begging for a meal or just some spare change. It makes me think of all of the families this year who are going without; let’s face it most of us have been hit pretty hard by the economy. It also makes me wonder if my children will grow to give; my mom used to always say to me: “Tis better to give than to receive.” I always took this wisdom to heart; however I know I can do more. I also know that I can teach my children to do more.
What is the Christmas spirit really? To me it is that selfless action that brings people together—the love of your family and friends, and celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, the ultimate giver.
It’s funny, I had great Christmases as a child. The presents and food were plentiful, and I was even more blessed by the actions of people showing God’s love and the memories of giving than any of the real material items I received. My parents always instilled in me that we are not owed gifts, and they spent more time around the holidays worrying about and helping others than thinking of themselves. I have to say these are some of my favorite times that I remember with them, watching them do as God told them to, giving to others.
It was the Christmas when I was about seven years old that I remember the most. My aunt was a single mom struggling hard around the holidays. There were six of us children between my parents and my aunt, and we were all going on and on about Christmas presents. My mom and aunt told the six of us kids to wrap up presents from our own toys to give to each other.
I picked the toys I didn’t care for (most of us kids did). It was more a thoughtless action than one we did out of care and love. In fact I remember a few of us older kids being annoyed by this cheap Christmas idea.
Every time we would go to my cousins’ house I would beg my older cousin Kevin to play with his toys—he had the greatest toys—including a really neat veterinarian set with scrubs. He would always tell me to go away and that I could not play with it. I know he valued that kit a lot, it was one of his favorite things, in fact he was playing with it nearly every time I saw him, and boy did I want that toy!
That Christmas when it came time for me to open the present Kevin had chosen for me I unwrapped the mess of newspaper to find that Vet kit. Kevin looked embarrassed when I started to cry tears of excitement and joy.
This was such a selfless gift. No one made him do it, and according to him he just thought it would make me happy. And that is what the sprit of giving and Christmas is about: Making others happy not yourself.
I of course remember other gifts I have gotten in the past but that used old Vet set that my cousin gave me is the one that I hold the most dear in my heart.
Giving should be joyful; it should be something that is not hard to do. We should all remember the gifts that God gives us, and try to give back to others when we are blessed.
This year my girls are doing chores for presents. The gist of it is that they will do small chores to earn money to go to the toy store and pick out gifts for children that do not have a lot. Believe it or not they are very excited to do this. Just as my parents and my aunt taught all of us kids as we were younger, I want to teach my kids that giving is fun. It’s a blessing to be able to give, and God loves a cheerful giver.
I may not still have that gift my cousin gave me, although I am sure it is packed somewhere in our attic, but in my memory is one of the most wonderful Christmas gifts, an act of kindness that brings me joy to think about even to this day. I don’t think even back then that it was so much the fact that he gave the toy I wanted as much as it was seeing such kindness and generosity from him. Teaching your children to give and not to look at the material side of the holidays will only add to your memories and joy. I hope your Christmas season is blessed!