For as long as I can remember my parents encouraged me to give. When I was very young, my brothers and I collected all our change and donated it to Jerry Lewis’ kids. We weren’t really sure how the money would be used, but we felt sorry for the little children we saw on the telethon and wanted to help.
When I was a teenager, my mom volunteered at a pro-life support clinic and we donated the clothes we’d outgrown to the families who used the facility. One day I saw a girl I knew at school, wearing one of the outfits I had donated. It looked good on her and she seemed happy wearing it. That was when I realized that giving wasn’t an abstract concept – it made a difference in the lives of real people.
There are many instances in holy books where believers are admonished to be generous to others. Proverbs 14:21 reads:
Those who despise their neighbors are sinners,
but happy are those who are kind to the poor.
And here is a verse from the Quran:
The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practise regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise. (9:71)
When I became an adult I did as much as I could to give – volunteering time, “adopting” a child, packing and delivering Christmas baskets – I never had much money, but I wanted to share with others out of what I did have.
By the time I had children, our church had started an Alternative Gift Market. After services, during Advent, we could choose from fair-trade gifts, or purchase items from a catalog, such as providing mosquito nets to protect children from malaria, or buying a window for a house built by Habitat for Humanity. We could give the gift in honor of a loved one, and that person would receive a Christmas card detailing the gift sent on their behalf. My kids loved saving their allowance and picking out a special gift – a flock of chicks in honor of grandma, or roof shingles in honor of their uncle.
This year, Compassion International is giving all of us the opportunity to donate to families in need through their Christmas Gift Catalog. Our family will be donating to provide garden seeds for families in Africa in honor of our family members (if you are a family member -sorry to blow the surprise 😉
Click the link above to check out the catalog and let me know –