This article touched me. When it comes to giving, it’s not all about the gifts at Christmas time.
That is wonderful, too, of course, and in the past few years, my daughter, Theresa, takes up a collection from all our family and friends and prepares some baskets for different families that we know could use the help.
But what about the gift of time? Last night, someone came over that had great burdens to carry. I was able to listen and, well, that was pretty much it. But I know when he walked away his burden was a little lighter.
This particular post reinforced the thought of knowing that even if it is just a listening ear or an encouraging word, you are changing the world.
A book by a brilliant writer, about keeping Christmas, contains this paragraph, which is worth quoting:
“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front, so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open — are you willing to do these things even for a day?…………Then you can keep Christmas.”
We must make Christmas first in our own heart before we can make it for any other. A grumpy person, a selfish person, a tyrannous and despotic person, an uncharitable, unforgiving person, cannot enter into the spirit of Christmas himself and cannot add to the blessing of Christmas for his friends or neighbors.
The day must begin within, in one’s own heart. But it will not end there. We must be a maker of Christmas for others or we cannot make a real Christmas for ourselves. We need the sharing of our joy in order to partake of its real possession. If we try to keep our Christmas all to ourselves, we will miss half its sweetness.
There would seem not to be any need at the Christmastide to say a word to urge people to be kind to others and to do things for them. Everybody we meet at this season carries an armful of mysterious bundles.
For weeks before the happy day the stores are thronged with people buying all sorts of gifts.
To the homes of the poor, baskets by hundreds are sent, with their provision for Christmas dinners and their toys for the children. The spirit of giving is in the very air. Even the churl and the miser are generous and liberal for the time. Everybody catches the spirit of giving for once in the year.
But this is not the only way to do good, to help others.
In a story a good man says, “It’s very hard to know how to help people when you can’t send them blankets, or coal, or Christmas dinners.”
With many people this is very true. They know of no way of helping others save by giving them material things.
Yet there are better ways of doing good than by sending a dinner, or clothing, or a picture for the wall, or silverware for the table. One may have no money to spend and yet may be a liberal benefactor.
We may help others by sympathy, by cheer, by encouragement.
A good woman, when asked at Thanksgiving time for what she was most grateful, said that that which, above all other things, she was thankful for at the end of the year was courage.
She had been left with a family of children to care for and the burden had been very heavy. Again and again she had been on the point of giving up in the despair of defeat. But through the cheer and encouragement received from a friend she had been kept brave and strong through all the trying experience.
Her courage had saved her. It is a great thing to be such an encourager — there is no other way in which we can help most people better than by giving them courage.
Without such inspiration many persons sink down in their struggles and fail.
Too many persons — to far more than we think, life is very hard, and it is easy for them to faint in the way.
What they need, however, is not to have the load lifted off, or to be taken out of the hard fight, but to be strengthened to go on victoriously. The help they need is not in temporal things, but in sympathy and heartening.