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The Gift of Giving

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As this Christmas season continues, I wanted to share something, a memory of mine to inspire you.  This is an incredibly chaotic time of year, one filled with running from here to there, being cold, overly excited children, depression and increased reality of loneliness for some, and pressure to be/do amazing.  In the midst of this season, some people feel led to give, while others are so caught up in their own flurry of activities, they forget about their fellow man.

Does your community hold a gift drive?  Does your church take in food to hand out?  Have you seen these drives and ever really stopped to wonder about the families in need…..or have you not given faces to the need, it is just something that impresses a fleeting moment of sadness within you and poof…you are back to your own chaos?

When I was around ten, we were this family in need.  I have many tumultuous and sad memories surrounding the holidays as a child, but this one isn’t so sad.  Well, it is sad actually, when my mother heart identifies with how my mother must have felt, but it also inspires me each and every day.

This particular Christmas, we lived in a rental house that had oil for heat.  You had to pay a person to come put oil in a big tank that would provide heat for your home throughout the winter.   That year, my mother worked at the factory in town.  She was a tiny little woman all of a hundred pounds soaking wet, but she worked hard each night lifting and sewing giant loads of sweatshirts.  She was a tiny walking lint ball at the end of each night.

Thinking about it, my mother never ate much when I was younger.  I always thought it was due to her own self perception issues, and that was probably part, but I’ve come to realize that perhaps she saw food in terms of money.  Every dollar had to be accounted for….literally, and more often than not, I remember her saying she wasn’t hungry.  I look back now and think that maybe she was hungry, and just didn’t eat so that we could.

This particular winter, my father had once again stripped us of the much needed money in order to feed his need.  As a result, the money to pay bills was thin, and my mother did something truly incredible.  This already tiny little woman, sold her winter coat for money to fill our oil tank and heat the house.

As a child, my mother and I lived through something that thankfully, many people cannot comprehend.  Our lives were very different from the life I have as a mother to my own children.  When I think back to that year specifically, I often feel the pain of how she must have felt.

How do you face selling your coat to heat the home, knowing that there just isn’t enough money to stretch through Christmas?  She worked night shift, and it was bitterly cold that year….she went to work anyway.  She frequently says that she did what she had to do.

We do that as moms you know.

My heart hurts to think about my mother looking down into my eyes, telling me that we just do not have the money.  Tears threatening to spill over, the little quaking that her nervous body always did, becoming more powerful.  I knew the concept well, it was okay, I just wanted her not to be so sad.

That year, we were the faces of need to match with your charity.

It will forever be etched in my mind, the year that Christmas was left on our porch….literally.

In the last 22 years, I have never forgotten the events of that year.  A local church (that we didn’t even attend) left Christmas on our porch.  They left what we needed right there, for us, exactly when we needed it.  God is so good!

I held my mom through many tears of sadness throughout my childhood, but that night, we cried happy tears. I can only imagine the wave of relief and love from God’s perfect timing  that my mom must have felt that year. It truly was an answered prayer.

I offer this memory to spark you to put a face to the need. To take a moment to pray for those who have less, to give what you can, and to know that it really does make a difference to the families who are receiving.  Sometimes those donations can literally make Christmas come alive for someone.

Note: My mother is now a nurse, happily remarried, and every year she makes a point to donate to the battered women’s shelter and to the angel tree families who need help during the Christmas season.  And as you have read my blog, you know that this life lesson has resonated in how I give back as well.

May we always be humble and thankful for what we have.  May we always be open to giving of ourselves and our possessions to help our neighbor. May we always love God as He has loved us.

 

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