Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Season of Charity

It starts around Thanksgiving.  Schools send notices home asking for food donations.  A note on my mailbox tells me the Boy Scouts will be picking up can goods on Saturday for a local food bank.  Churches are doing food drives for their holiday baskets.  The Marines begin their Toys for Tots program and ministries promote their shoe box packages for Third World countries where little children will receive nothing else for Christmas except for what you donate.  Charities begin calling asking for financial donations to help their organization because they know that most people are in the giving mood.  Even Scrooge was asked to do his part.  The holiday season is the season for charity, after all.

And that’s good.  We need to give to those who truly need it, and I stress the “truly need it” part, although I’ll leave my definition of what that means for another post.  However, there is sadness, as well, to the fact that this is the season of giving.

Charity should not be merely a part of the holiday.  I understand that it gives us that special warm feeling at Christmas to go that extra mile and the non-profit organizations make it easy to do by ringing their bells in our ears as we attempt to gain entrance to the department store without losing too much of our pocket change.  However, people need assistance all year round, not just at Christmas.  We need to step up year round, as well.  It is vital to those in need that we carry our generous spirit from Christmas to Christmas and not just worry about that last minute tax deduction.

My mom used to say, “Charity begins at home,” and I agree with her.  We need to help those in our family who may be struggling before emptying our pockets for others.  From there, though, it should spread to our friends and coworkers.  Yet, it can’t stop there.  There is a world of people hurting and we need to tune our hearts to their plight.  While we cannot help everyone, we can help someone, and that could be the difference that changes the world.  I fully believe that if it is within your power to lend a helping hand, then you have a moral responsibility to do so.

Christmas is about giving, not just gifts, but the best of ourselves.  It is that spirit, the spirit of generosity, which we need to embrace all year long.  It’s not what most of us are taught.  No, the world advocates a selfish look-out-for-number-one philosophy.  We are taught to horde our material goods and it’s every man for himself - or woman, if we want to stay politically correct.  And with that mindset, you will survive, no doubt.  You’ll probably even succeed.  However, a part of your soul will die with the self-absorption.  A part of us shrinks when we ignore our fellow man and only think of ourselves.  Inner growth comes from outward examination.  Open your eyes to those around you and see below the surface to what is really in their heart and the struggles in their life.  True observation sees below the top layer.

Determine in the coming year to develop that Christmas spirit within you by creating habits of generosity.  When you go grocery shopping, pick up a couple of extra items to drop off at a food bank, and don’t forget the pet food.  Animals are people, too.  You can make regular donations to homeless shelters, orphanages, or clinics.  That Christmas party you might want to plan for the children’s home will have a greater impact in April or August when everyone else has forgotten about them.  It is our instinct to try and make sure no one does without on Christmas, but we need to have that mindset throughout the year.  Be someone’s Santa Claus 365 days of the year, not just during the holidays.  Make it your goal, whether every week or every month, to make somebody’s life just a little easier, to relieve the stress of simply existing, so that they may start living.  Make the season of charity last all year long.  I promise, it will bear a double reward.  You’ll be brightening two people’s lives, the one you’re assisting and your own, because when you give to others, it changes you inside.  You see life differently and it gives you a sense of joy unlike anything else.  It is when you give that you receive the biggest gains.  So, decide today to reward yourself by giving something of yourself to someone else.

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For Further Reading ~ Christmas Through Different Eyes
                                 Leggo Your Ego
                                Too Much

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