The other week I took my kids to The Dollar Store for the sole purpose of filling their shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. During the past few months, they had saved up a few dollars in a mason jar labeled “Christmas Giving”. As we strolled up and down the store aisles this is what I heard:
“Ooooh… I want this!”
“Mom, can you get me this for Christmas?”
“Can I buy this? I have enough money!”
My jaw tensed and then I heard my own, disarmingly shrill voice overpower theirs. “This is not about you. I do not want to hear one. more. word. about. you. Get it?”
And then I think I saw someone from church look away and duck down the next aisle. I’m not sure. I hope I didn’t. But I think I did.
Here’s the thing. The sad, raw truth: I am exactly the same way. I’m just a little more quiet about my desires, a little more grown up about the relentless, internal struggle between what I want because I want it and what I know my money could accomplish in the bigger, grander picture. I want to fund a well in Africa, I really do, but I also want a new rug for our family room.
God has been good this year. He’s good every year but this year we saw specific “goodness” in specific tangible ways. As a result we were thrilled to be able to give the families of the Compassion children we sponsor in India a more substantial gift than we have in the past. As I write this, the verse about not letting our right hand know what our left hand is doing in regards to giving is battling it out against the verses that encourage us to spur each other on to good deeds. Can we share the joy we get from giving in a humble, non self-exalting way? I hope so. I suppose it’d take a whole sermon to reconcile these two principles but let me just say that we felt a rush of joy in the giving. We stood in the kitchen and whispered about what it would be like for these families to receive their gifts. Would they be surprised? What would they buy? What would they do with the money?
“I hope they don’t think we’re just some rich Americans who think we’re better than everyone,” my husband said.
We fell silent. I hoped they didn’t either. I hope, somehow, they know the pure joy we felt in being able to give. I hope they know what an honor it is to partner with them in this thing called life and that we, too, have been on the receiving end many, many times.
I hope they have some inkling of the gift they’ve given us. That, truth be told, if we didn’t give our hearts may shrivel up into useless balls of self-absorption. You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it- ’tis better to give than receive… and “better” sure can can encompass a lot.
When we came home from the Dollar Store the kids arranged the toys, stickers, school supplies and toiletries in their shoeboxes. Before we sealed the boxes for good, I handed one to each of my kids and told them to open them as if they were the recipients.
My daughter effortlessly fell into the role. She gasped in delight as she opened her box. “Just what I’ve always wanted!”
I hope so.
I pray so.