What is the best gift you have ever received? Think back to the day it was given to you… where were you? Did you have that moment of sheer joy to hold in your hands something so amazing, or were you brought to tears that someone would love you enough to give you that treasured gift. Maybe you were a child, and you came down on Christmas morning to find a bicycle or a pair of skates. Perhaps when you were a teenager your parents bought you a brand new car. Or you might be the person that loves the understated thoughtfulness of someone taking you to lunch or buying your coffee.
Not every gift comes in the form of a neatly wrapped package. Maybe you have been the recipient of a gift of forgiveness and grace when you felt as though you did not deserve it. How did you feel when you realized that you had been given something you did not earn, or even expect.
We all give and receive differently. It took me a really long time to learn that. What is special to one person, is not always special to someone else. When you are wired to appreciate acts of service, a beautifully wrapped gift may not be as meaningful to you as when someone you love is willing to lend a hand helping you around the house, picking up your kids from school or grabbing take out at the end of the day.
My parents are natural givers. Growing up in my family, our home was open to many different people. It was a little bit of a revolving door at times, and it was likely you found someone eating at our table, sleeping in our guest room (aka the kids bedroom), and some even had a key to our home. My parents believed that if we had it to share, then we should always be giving it away to someone who may need it more. Their philosophy is that it is always better to give than receive.
I have to be honest, this was not a concept I was naturally inclined towards. Everything within me fought against giving away my most prized possessions. And, I guess that is probably why my parents insisted that it be done. There was one particular christmas when I was around eleven years old that my mom asked me to help load up the van with a few things from the garage to take to a family in need.
It wasn’t long before we were packed to the brim, headed to the next town over for this special delivery. I distinctly remember it being dark already when we arrived as it was around supper time. As we got out of the van mom told me to ‘be friendly’. Immediately upon entering the tiny house I realized that this family did have very much, and we had come to ensure they were taken care of over the holidays. We unloaded grocery bags, a few items of furniture, and then came the gifts. Gifts for every member of the family.
We didn’t stay very long, as quickly as we came we left. As we walked out the door mom hugged the woman and we were off. We weren’t in the car five minutes before mom began to talk with me about what had just happened. I sat quietly as she explained that the family had fallen on hard times, and they had no money for christmas gifts for their children. So a few of moms work colleagues and herself had organized to help this family. What I did not know at the time was that mom and dad had planned to for-go their personal gifts to one another to make this happen.
In a culture so focused on receiving, what if we changed our perspective towards giving?
- The act of giving is not always about our pocket book, it’s more about the heart. Start with something small. Ask yourself where you can meet the need of someone in your life. It could be as simple as helping them raking the leaves in their yard, or asking them to join you for lunch.
- Reconnect with those who you have been meaning to call or email. Life gets busy, but sometimes the best gifts come in the form of your time. Who in your life needs to hear from you? This is a great time of the year to make the effort to tell your family how much you love them.
- Volunteer your talent and time at local charity or shelter. This could involve serving, offering to help with a project, or giving your professional services. This is a great opportunity to come alongside an organization that is doing great work.
We all have the opportunity to be givers this season. And, it may look different to each of us. But when we start to make room in our lives not only to give, but to receive we may surprised at the blessing that will come our way.
Together We Are Better!