Wish lists, letters to Santa, presents, parties, so many people say that Christmas has become so commercial these days. I agree, but what I think is more problematic is that Christmas has become about “I.” I want-fill in the blank- for Christmas. For years Black Friday sales have been turning Christmas commercial but in the last couple years I’ve seen and heard Black Friday ads with “one for you, one for me” or even “one for you, two for me” lines. It’s one thing for Christmas to be commercialized and turned into a holiday of toys and gifts. That’s not the reason for the season, but at least it’s in the spirit of giving. It’s a whole different thing to turn Christmas into yet another time to over indulge ourselves! As you know, I was in Greece last week. With the economic devastation that has hit that country I saw more people in extreme poverty than usual on the city streets. You see it here too in our major cities, people with their hands out for change, destitute, hungry and hopeless. Most people just walk by unaffected. Some people claim it’s because they don’t trust the person’s motives or intentions with the money. So take an extra step and buy them a sandwich, or some fruit. If you don’t have the time, give them your change. Your responsibility lies not in what they do with it, but in doing your best to take care of those less fortunate. There are so many people in need right here among us and around the world. Let’s take some time this year to consider how instead of following the trend of being unusually self centered, we can break the mold by being uncommonly thoughtful by blessing people without asking for anything in return.
Here’s a list I came up with in case you needed some ideas of how to be a “one way” blessing.
- Pick up someone’s grocery bill/check at a restaurant. Believe it or not, this used to be a lot more common of a practice not too very long ago. If you see a mom struggling to reign in her children in the checkout line, or a young married couple at a restaurant and you have the means, by all means, foot the bill. It’s an excellent way to bless your neighbor without asking for a return.
- Wear the same thing twice! What do I mean? I mean, wear the same outfit this Christmas that you wore last Christmas. Did you know that with around 50 dollars or less you can supply people in developing countries enough chickens to lay eggs for them and their family. Imagine being the reason that an entire family doesn’t have to worry about finding food for years, just because you wore the same thing twice!
- Know someone who is out of a job? Buy their Christmas dinner! You know a Christmas dinner can be expensive. Sending a grocery gift card this time of year can be a huge blessing.
- Sign up for monthly giving. Find a charity that you like and make a sacrifice for it. You won’t be spending any extra money if you choose to make your coffee at home instead of stopping for a latte and then donate the difference to a charity of your choice. You’d be surprised that by simply making your own coffee you can save around 30 dollars a month! Most non-profits give you the choice to sign up for a monthly donation, so why not give them your daily latte?
- Toy drives are everywhere this time of year. If you’re picking up a super cool toy for your child why not pick up an extra for a child less fortunate. A lot of those toys go to children in foster care or whose parents are in jail. By dropping off some toys at a toy drive or fulfilling the wish of an “Angel Tree” child you’re making someone’s Christmas, well, Christmas.
- If you don’t have the means to do any of these things, don’t worry. You don’t have to miss out on being a blessing. Work with someone who takes the bus? Offer to give them a ride. Know someone who is going through tough times? Have them over for tea and a talk.
The holiday season isn’t the only time to be generous with our time and resources, but it is for most of us a time of joy, giving and getting. So why not spread that around to everyone? You never know what kind of chain reaction you’ll start by simply offering an act of kindness and generosity.