It’s the holiday time of year again. Whether your family observes Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or some mash-up of everyone in the family’s beliefs and disbeliefs, there is general agreement that it is a time of caring and sharing.
Advertising sets the tone. Along with all the images of people receiving mountains of toys, giant TVs and cars with bows on top, we see many images of people sharing their bounty, visiting the homebound, and reuniting with loved ones (even though these tugs at the heartstrings are still meant to sell you something).
I’m sure your to-do list is plenty long at this time of year, but I would like to suggest a few adjustments to it. When you make the list of people to whom you have to send greeting cards, add a few names of neighbors or acquaintances who are lonely or grieving and let them know you’re thinking of them.
When you make the list of people to whom you’re giving gifts, add a person or family from the lists of needy people that charities, churches and businesses keep, from nursing homes, or from programs that “adopt” military personnel or prisoners (there are several websites for such programs).
When you make your grocery list, you can easily include an extra can or box of some item you’re buying and drop it into the collection barrel at your store or church. When you leave a store, be sure to drop the spare change (and a little extra) into the Salvation Army kettle instead of into your purse or, if you use a credit card, you can always take along a little money from your pocket or dresser top when you go to the store.
Shopping can be very stressful, but what if, for every hour you spent shopping, you made yourself take fifteen minutes that day for prayer, bible reading or meditation of some kind? The first response may be to say that then you would only be further behind on the things you need to get done, but that may not be true. A peaceful mind and spirit can focus us in such a way that we are more productive in the rest of our day.
Every parent or grandparent knows the challenge of helping children understand how fortunate they are. With their long lists of things they want from Santa, your children should always be told about the children who may not even get one thing from their list.
By letting children select gifts for the needy themselves or donating to charity a good toy they no longer use for every new toy they receive, they learn that there are many children just like themselves who experience difficult circumstances over which they have no control.
Even very young children can learn to feel empathy for others by simply having them imagine what it would be like if they had no gifts, or no home, or no family, or were very sick, and asking them what they would like to do for someone like that.
Don’t forget to talk to them about gratitude and how everything they have comes from the love of others and from the love of God. They should know that God loves the poor children too and is grateful to those of us who help take care of them when life has not been fair to them.
I don’t want to forget that some of you reading this may be suffering from illness, grief or financial hardship yourself. I hope that other readers will be inspired to bless you with their kindness and generosity.
Whatever your circumstances, may you be touched by the spirit of this holiday season and experience the peace and joy of caring and sharing.