Giving

Have you noticed that Christmas is the season for giving?  The bell ringers are ringing, the toy drives are driving. Coats for kids, angel trees, cans of food instead of tickets to Christmas plays — it’s the season to give.  It’s a teaching moment for kids to pick out something for a child they don’t know and not something for themselves.

Church choirs go caroling to shut-ins, walk through nursing homes singing Silent Night to Jingle Bells and exiting with “We WHISHSH you a merry Christmas” again teaching the children how to give of themselves to bring joy to the lonely.

I applaud.  I approve.  It is good, very, very good.  But when all your giving is done in one short time frame along with everyone else, it’s slam giving, one month fits all year.  It’s huge supplies at the food bank — hopefully it will last 11 months.  It’s carolers lining up at the entrance of the nursing home — too much of a good thing in a short time frame and nothing for another year.

A couple of decades ago Elaine Dollerschell brought up an interesting concept.  “Why don’t we skip Christmas caroling to the elderly in the nursing homes this Christmas and instead hold a party for them in January or March?  That way we don’t have to make an appointment, competing with all the other churches, and the residents don’t have to wait 11 months to have their spirits lifted.”

Hmmmm.  Elaine, you said a mouth full.  Within a span of 20 minutes today while I was watching a colorized Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwick movie, I witnessed two pleas from Feed the Children featuring 10 or more celebrities in each showing “real children with hopes and dream who are hungry.”  It’s good to have these drives to raise money for charity especially when people are in a mindset to give as in “strike while the iron is hot.” I’d like to see them offer a 12 month payment plan.

The hungry are hungry January through November.  The lonely are alone 11 months between groups of carolers.

I was witness to at least two occasions and many discussions of my dad giving his hard earned cash to panhandlers, of him helping someone off the sidewalk and giving him a couple of bucks for food.  The argument always was “You know he’s just going to buy more booze!”

My answer, as was my dad’s, is “So what?”  Then you just wasted your money!

No, I didn’t.  I gave with pure motives.  Don’t need a thank you, don’t need an I.O.U. note.

Choose your recipients carefully enough to know if the charity that claims to feed children actually feeds children if you can find out.  It’s good to know your giving is helping.  But if there’s no way of knowing for sure, don’t withhold your giving.

It’s your heart that benefits.  It’s your heart that God sees.  Do you give only when you know it’s a worthy cause in your estimation? More to the theme here, do you give only in December?

Is there a shelter or a food bank you can pick up a few extra cans of beans or soup for every time you shop for your family throughout the year?  Is there a ministry you can sign up for to have a certain dollar amount automatically deducted from your checking account every month? You can investigate them for their sincerity or you can pray God sends your $10 or $50 where it needs to go.

No extra bucks? Stand in the serving line of the homeless shelter.  Knit or buy  some hats, gloves, and scarves and pull over to the side of the street where the homeless hang out and give them out.  Where I live there are kids at bus stops in below freezing temperatures wearing shorts, maybe because they’re not too bright, trying to appear sexy or tough, or maybe because they don’t have warm clothes because it’s Tennessee and we don’t have all that much cold weather and it’s not cost effective to buy heavy clothes.

Instead of judging their intelligence, assume their need and meet it.  Keep some hats, gloves, and scarves in the back seat.  Maybe the local elementary school needs a supply of the same for those who lack or those who forgot to bring one and need something to keep them warm on the way home.

There are endless opportunities to give and to teach giving.  December is the top feel good month of the year.  Go for it! Reach out and teach by example.  But…. or should I say “And….”

How about using December to launch a new habit? A new habit that becomes so ingrained you don’t feel the giving surge at Christmas. A habit that inspires you to give regularly, using your imagination, or like I already said, an online automatic donation you don’t even have to think about — or talk about.

I’ve experienced a new facet to the bell ringers.  In the lobby of Shopko was a lady in a portable hospital bed wearing her ear muffs, mittens, and had blankets draped over her.  Hmmm.  Really?  I’ll bet she pulled in extra that day.  I’m not saying she was faking anything or planned on playing the Pity Card.  But it was a first for me, this new twist of the heart string.

Years ago Honey’s dad, Herb, gave a twenty to a scruffy man who walked into the store begging politely for a hand out.  He promised to pay it back.  He was not seen again.  Herb was teased relentlessly for years.  Was Herb an idiot for being taken in, fooled by a con man?  Don’t know.  If the man made a living that way, that’s between him and God.  Those who gave to him gave from their hearts.

Don’t worry if what you give won’t be appreciated or if your gift is tricked out of you or if it’s used unwisely.

God sees all hearts.  Just give.

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