Several years ago around this time I was with a group of people on our way to drop off a trunk full of Christmas presents. The mood in the car was cheerful as we chatted about the family that we had triumphantly saved Christmas for. This family had submitted a ‘wish list’ to the school that their children attended, and feeling the Christmas spirit, we were anxious to help. Our group went above and beyond, as they had in the past, and I remember visualizing how excited the parents would be to see the goodies we packed inside the trunk. It made ME excited.
The directions to this family’s home lead us to a rundown side of town. The house was small and could easily be overlooked if not someone’s intended destination. We decided to ring the doorbell and meet the parents first before bombarding them with the gifts. A forty-something man answered the door and stepped outside. Long hair, grizzly face, disheveled clothing and snow boots greeted us. He asked us if we could bring the presents to the basement through a side door because he wanted to hide the presents from his eager children.
We agreed, and with arms full of presents we descended into his basement. The steps were covered with clothes, and upon our apology for stepping on them he replied “they are dirty anyway, that’s where the kids throw them.” We stayed and chatted in his basement for awhile and learned that his wife was the bread-winner of the family and that he was collecting unemployment while looking for a job. He was a handy-man by trade and started to discuss government conspiracy theories and how to make a home-made bomb. I remember thinking he was off his rocker. And lonely.
We wrapped up the gift exchange and he thanked us for our generosity, letting us know that his kids would be so excited on Christmas morning.
The judgments came instantly as we drove away. We had not been met by the parents we had imagined; our selfless acts of giving not validated by tears and hugs of appreciation. Phrases like ‘dead-beat father’ and ‘house was a disaster’ were used when describing the family to other participants of the gift giving. ‘I wish we would have given all of those gifts to a family that deserves it.’
A family that deserves it.
I will never, ever, forget the way I felt driving away from that house. I knew, immediately, that we had it all wrong. That everything about that exchange was about how it made US feel, and not the family we bought presents for. We forgot that the ‘dead-beat father’ was still a father-that there were children in that home that would have gifts to unwrap on Christmas morning, regardless if their parent’s deserved our charity.
And that’s just it. Our judgement in our charity, and our giving, makes it hard for people to ask for help anyway. It harnesses us from understanding that giving should never be about US or the quest for a thank-you or validation. Could we be anymore narcissistic? We should just…give. (Of course I am generalizing the ‘we’, I know there are some who give selflessly out there..)
Mother Theresa said “If you give something you do not need, it isn’t giving.” I wish I could high-five her, or sit with her, or just yeah. That hurts. You know she’s hanging with Jesus.
It’s that time of year when the giving-bug bites frequently. In an age of social media flattery for acts of kindness, I challenge you to check your heart, and motives, when extending good will and help to others. Is it about you? Or can you truly love the person you are helping EXACTLY were they are. No judgement. No deciding if they are worth it. No strings attached, no questions asked. If you have been moved to help someone, financially or with material blessings, just do it. I would propose it is God moving you. Which would mean it’s about God, extending hope to someone, through you. That’s warm and fuzzy Christmas stuff right there.
I pray I am never found speaking the words “they didn’t deserve my help, or charity.” I give all of you free reign to CALL ME OUT. We really can change the world, but we gotta change with it.
Recently I was challenged by a reader on this post about hanging on when you are financially broke. She challenged my definition of “brokenness” stating that even though we were low on cash we were still living in a FL condo and had the luxury of taking a mid-afternoon swim in the condo’s pool. Although I know that was a scary time for Josh and I financially, I will say touche’ to her comment. I have never known poverty like some experience.
She also challenged me about buying pizza for a well-off family (since they were vacationing there) instead of taking that money and giving to someone who could really use it.
The intent of that post was not to highlight my “giving” but more so the following through with the push from Jesus to buy them pizza and to trust that he would take care of us until payday-in which he did.
I wanted to answer proudly that she had no idea how much my husband and I do behind the scenes, that my heart is always positioned to give and help out. But I didn’t cause then that would be making it about me. And it’s not about me. Or Josh.
The Jesus I am always talking about on the blog gives me this nugget to follow:
~So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving may be done in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. ~ Matthew 6:2-4
And I really am trying. Merry Christmas ya’ll. I hope all of you have crazy secret times of giving, or receiving, this year. You are awesome.
Instead of a song, here is another blog that rocked my world about this giving thing:
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