The Season of Giving by Debra HollandChristmas is the season of the year when people are the most generous. They not only give gifts to family and friends, but also to strangers and charitable organizations.
Unfortunately, due to the economy, charitable giving is down at the very time more people are in need. Perhaps you are one of those people. Or perhaps you aren’t able to give in the way you have in the past.
When I was in the fifth grade at Hope Lutheran School, we had to attend chapel every Wednesday. I remember one of the teachers delivered a sermon, using the analogy of a shovel. He said, when you give to God, God gives back. Only, he uses a bigger shovel. Meaning, the more you give to those in need, the more you receive in return.
I know I have lived a life that’s richly blessed. I’ve always had abundance, although some years I had financial difficulites. But through it all, I continued to support my favorite charities. And what I noticed was that my income often reflected my giving.
This principle of abundance has reflected strongly in my life in the last three years. I joined a church and made a committment to give a fixed amount every week. I’ve also continued to support charities such as Habitat For Humanity, Covenant House, and Orange County Mission.
What I found was that the shovel principle has definitely applied to me. Since I’ve been giving regularly, I’ve had so much work that I’ve had to turn away clients. And in this economy, with so much suffering around me, I don’t take my good fortune for granted.
If you’re thinking of cutting back on your charitable gifts this year, I’m going to urge you to rethink that decision. I’m going to ask you to think creatively about the ways you can give.
I remember hearing a sermon when I was young, where the minister outlined the three ways to tithe: time, talent, and treasure. If you don’t have much financially to give, you can still contribute something, even if it means tossing a few coins into the kettle of the Salvation Army bell ringer. It’s the gift from your heart that really matters, even more than the amount.
If you’re out of work, use some of your free time to volunteer. In addition to the help you give others, the satisfaction you receive from being of service will bring important meaning to your life, especially if you’re struggling with low spirits. Plus, you’ll find that there are always those who are worse off. Their troubles will put yours in perspective.
Think about the talents you have to offer. For example, many charitable organizations are in desperate need of someone with good writing and copyediting skills. Writing stories, articles, blurbs, and other copy could fill an important need.
Get your children involved with helping. Younger children can pick a name off a “giving tree” located at churches, malls, and hospitals. (I suggest you pick a child of a similar age and the same gender as your own.) Let the children choose the toys and/or clothes for the person and also help wrap and deliver the gift.
Older children can serve at soup kitchens, organize food or clothing drives at their schools, or donate part of their allowance to charity. Many times older children will gravitate towards a charity that feels meaningful to them or one that their friends are involved in.
And don’t forget to spread peace and good will to all. Being patient with a haried sales clerk, smiling at the shoppers around you, giving up your place in line to someone with cranky children are all ways to increase your Christmas cheer.
What are your favorite ways to give?