Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
“It is better to give than receive.” As single parents, I am the first to admit that we don’t have a lot of money to share with those less fortunate than ourselves. However, there are other ways to give besides our money! Our time, compassion, understanding, talents, and skills are all very valuable. Giving also sets a good example for our children to follow.
What can you do to give when you feel like you have nothing left to give? Believe it or not, that isn’t so difficult. Volunteer at your local library to read children’s stories on a Saturday afternoon. With the kids out of school for the holidays, you would be surprised at the demand for a story-teller (or readers, as the case may be). Local shelters and area churches have holiday meals for the homeless and they desperately need people to serve – there are even jobs for the kids, so take them along and give them a taste for community service. Perhaps you know of a family nearby that is in more dire straits than yourself. Talk to your kids about using part of your grocery money to purchase groceries for this family – I was amazed at what my girls were willing to do without for a month in order to insure that someone else had the basics and a little something special for their own holiday dinner. No one complained, either, because their thoughts were with the family that was being thankful for their “windfall.” Go through your closets and donate the items that are too small to Goodwill or any other clothing drive. Shovel the snow from the walkway for the elderly lady down the street. Bake an extra loaf of bread for the widower at church who rarely smiles.
Honestly, these are all things that we should do throughout the year, but this seems to be the time of the year when we give “good works” more consideration.
This year, I was involved in making a quilt for a co-worker who has been through a terrible time with the illness of his son. Everyone in the department chipped in time and effort to make this quilt. I was so surprised at the dedication that was put into the process. Our department is mostly male and these guys were awesome! I had the great privilege of quilting with quite a few of them and my respect for them has greatly increased through this experience. I also got the opportunity to know them better as we all chatted while we worked. I promise you that I got every bit as much out of this experience as I put into it! I was blessed with this privilege. Furthermore, we remarkably finished this quilt within three days! When it was presented to our co-worker, many of us had tears in our eyes. It was a truly joyful experience!
Additionally, my daughter worked with a group of children from her school to collect donations to sponsor two children in foster care in our area. They had a great time raising the money and more fun shopping for these two teens. The phones were busy – as always – as they planned their surprise; however, instead of talking about the next game or boys or what they wanted for Christmas, the conversations were heavy in to what else they could do for these teens that they didn’t even know. All they knew about these two teenagers was that they didn’t have a family, didn’t have “real” home, and that they needed a Christmas. I was very proud of their efforts!
I have another friend who does not buy any Christmas presents. Instead, she makes gifts or offers her services to friends and family. Baked goods, scrap books where she has organized a friend’s photos, painting the porch railings and other generous offers fill the pages of her “shopping list.” I enjoy hearing of her efforts and the gratitude with which they are received. The greatest component of her gifts is her time – which is one of the most valuable things we can give to another person.
Last night I took my next-door neighbor’s children to the Dollar Tree to shop for their Christmas presents. They had done little odd jobs for me over the past few weeks to earn money to buy presents for their grandparents, their aunt and each other. We patiently walked through the store so they could check out every possibility and they carefully chose what they felt would be the best gifts for their family. Their eyes would like up when they found just the right present. On the way home, all they could talk about was how much their family would like the presents and how proud they would be that they had earned the money themselves. It was a wonderful experience!
Perhaps this year you can get your children, along with some of the neighborhood children (and maybe their parents!) and form a group to sing carols for the rest of the houses in your neighborhood. Perhaps your children would shovel snow for the elderly neighbors. Offer free babysitting for one afternoon to the new mother down the street that can’t get her grocery shopping done, much less her Christmas shopping. I promise that you will be truly amazed at how much gratitude you receive for these gifts of your time, compassion and understanding. You will truly find yourself more blessed to give than to receive!
Have a wonderful holiday season! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Blessed Yule! Joyful Kwanza! And a delightful any other holiday I have forgotten! I hope that you all are truly blessed!