Christmas giving

I love this time of year when the Christmas lights begin to twinkle and my favorite Christmas songs play.
But it’s not about Santa or even those fancy decorations. The birth of our Savior Jesus Christ is the reason my family and I celebrate this season.
It’s also about giving; to one another and to people we will never meet. Goodwill is what it’s called in society – the gifting of funds or goods or services. It’s something I learned very early in life and watched my dad practice.
There was the one Christmas he and I drove from grocery store to grocery store, asking for donations. We arrived on “the other side of town” with a carload of food and began knocking on doors; giving bags of groceries to people we’d never met.
My memories of that day include dad wearing his fedora and that long London Fog coat, carrying bags up rickety stairs, handing them off to unsuspecting and very deserving – as well as thankful – strangers. Some of them cried, others just stood surprised and thanked him.
For dad it may as well have been Christmas all year long. Dad was a giver. I was also with him the day he took the jacket off his own shoulders and handed it to a man who was less fortunate. He was generous to a fault and in the last years before he died people began to knock on his door – not to share something or to help him – but to ask for money. He shared what he had and as far as we know, rarely saw that money returned.

Christmas was the time he gave above and beyond. I’m finding that out now, more than a year after his death, that he shared what little he had with organizations to benefit American Indian tribes, the homeless, children in faraway countries and who knows who else. He was indeed a giver, and I hope my dad’s generosity helped many of the recipients to live a bit more comfortably, if only for a while.

Something his sharing did for me was not only to cause me to realize how blessed I am but also to remind me to make sure that any giving I do is with caution. This is easy because while we are blessed in so many ways, we are blue-collar folks and our sharing is short and sweet.

Christmas always reminds me of that particular dad with dad when we delivered food, but I’m also reminded of the years I saved from January to late November so I could buy our children pretty much everything they dreamed of.

Christmas morning was full of excitement as they ran from one toy to the next and it was difficult to share the “true” meaning of the day while digging through wrapping paper for batteries or spare parts. We got the message across somehow but of course they had to experience their faith individually as they grew up.

Just as I have learned lessons from my dad, our kids learned from us. They prefer a simpler Christmas for their children with less emphasis on the gifts and the main focus on the birth of Christ. They also ask that their children receive things they need rather than all the stuff they want. I am impressed with their practicality.

So impressed, that in that place called “hindsight” that never gives us a do-over, I would share a lot less China-made plastic and a lot more grocery delivering with my children at Christmas. Though we did participate as a family in sharing with others and we think the kids turned out well, it would have been a much better investment to focus more on the “why” of Christmas than the “what” we gave them.

For that reason, I return to the sewing room to create gifts of clothing and blankets for the grandbabes. I could order online or drive to the big stores and pick out something cute but like my kids, I prefer handmade. It’s truly giving my best, from my heart. And maybe these things will be cherished for future family members.

Christmas has evolved in so many ways over the years, but one thing has never changed: the gift from God Himself, of the Christ child who would deliver us all with his life and death. That is a gift with staying power – the greatest gift of all.

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