Have you ever considered that giving can be a luxury? I’ve been poor enough some years that I couldn’t buy Christmas or birthday gifts. Sure, I could make a card, or promise a gift of time, but in this society of “things,” being unable to participate left me feeling diminished.
Have you ever considered that giving can be empowering, a moral teacher? One Christmas morning when my sister’s five children were small, we watched them tear through mountains of beribboned packages. Paper flew everywhere, gifts were immediately tossed aside in a frenzy to get to the next. After an hour or more, they looked around, and almost in one voice cried, “Is that all there is?”
The next Christmas, their parents set aside part of their Christmas budget, allowing each child twenty-five dollars. I had the pleasure of taking each youngster, one-on-one, during the weeks before Christmas, to buy gifts for their parents and siblings. (The boys always wanted “dimund” earrings for Mom and a gun for Dad. I learned to divert). That Christmas morning was more beautiful than we could have hoped. The kids were so excited to see the reactions to their carefully chosen gifts to each other that they had to be reminded to open their own “Santa” gifts. The tradition continued until the children were old enough to drive themselves. It was an incredible treasure to me.
On our third HomePlate Christmas we began a similar tradition. (HomePlate is a non-profit outreach to youth who are experiencing homelessness or unstable housing in Washington County, Oregon). We arranged a drive to collect new small gifts suitable for all ages. At dinner the week before Christmas we opened the “Christmas Store.” Youth were allowed to choose gifts for important people in their lives…parents, siblings, children, friends. We collected paper, tags, bows, etc. so they could wrap and go. The tradition has continued each year. Last year we had 47 youth and their children. Another church supplied a wrapping table so the youth could choose to wrap their own gifts or have them wrapped. One young man said he’d never wrapped a gift before.
Every year we see the same response to our gift of giving. The youth chose gifts. They help each other, finding treasures they’re sure their friends might want to give. They take a friend’s child to choose gifts for Mom or Grandma. The rooms shimmer with excitement. Laughter drowns out carols. Pride and joy illuminate faces. Unselfishness triumphs. We find it the most exciting night of the year for our HomePlate community.
Contributed by Bernie Bosnjak, pastor, Hillsboro Friends