Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas - The Non-Gift Gift

Do you get those booklets in the mail?  You know, the ones from Heifer International, World Vision, or Compassion which list items you can purchase in someone's name that will benefit others worldwide?

For example, for $30 you can give Honeybees to a family in Honduras so they can care for the bees, sell the honey, and use the money to feed their family.  Or for $20 you can give a Flock of Chicks to a family which provides them with food and eggs to sell to earn money.

When I was little, I thought this would be the most insulting gift to receive.  How fun would it be on Christmas Day to open up a present and find a card inside that said, "A tree seedling was purchased in your honor."  Not very fun at all.  I thought those gifts were probably the meanest tricks out there.

Until last year.

Last year I was blessed and cursed to be part of a screening of "58: The Film" prior to Christmas.  The film allowed me to meet people from around the world who are trapped in poverty.  I heard stories from India, Haiti, and my personal favorite - Ethiopia.  I was struck anew by the needs of the world as words Jesus spoke regarding how we should care for the poor were interspersed among the stories.  You can read my initial thoughts here, in a blog post I wrote after viewing the film. 

I say that I was blessed because it awakened me again to what really matters in life.  I say I was cursed because I saw it shortly before Christmas, and it made me question the way that I have handled Christmas in the past - specifically the gift giving and receiving.

My solution last year was to beg my family NOT to give me Christmas gifts.  I had my basic needs met, and more than that too.  I had a closet full of clothes to cover me, I had a pantry full of food to eat whenever I wanted, I had a loving family and a group of solid friends.  And last year I even had the knowledge that across the ocean my daughter awaited me.  What more did I need or even want?

I sat down one night for a few hours and wrote, edited, analyzed, edited, and over analyzed an email to my family.  Finally it was just time to send it out, so I hovered the mouse over "Send," closed my eyes, and clicked. 

I didn't want to appear like I'd gone off the deep end.  I didn't want to stir the waters.  I didn't want those who liked getting gifts to feel bad or pressured into not asking for gifts too.  All I wanted was to affect what I could, and divert money that would have been spent on my wants to instead be spent on others' needs.

You know what?  It worked!

My family members contributed the money they would have spent on gifts for me to various charities that were helping the poor worldwide. 

One of the gifts helped purchase infant formula for the babies in our adoption agency's orphanage in Ethiopia.  Our daughter was there at the time, and perhaps some of the formula purchased went into her bottles.  Another gift helped provide food and education to street children in Ethiopia.  Yet another gift honored my love of gardening by purchasing seeds for a school garden in Ethiopia.  I cried upon receiving notice of each of these gifts.  They meant so much to me.  Some of my family members even wrote letters accompanying the gifts, and I saved those letters and read them over and over again.  (And cried just about every time I read them.)  

I hunger for that kind of Christmas again.  I felt such a deep, long-lasting joy knowing that money was going to help the poor.  So as Christmas 2012 rolls around, only one thing is on my Christmas list: That the people who want to love on me with a gift would spend their dollars to help the poor.  Nothing would bring me more deep soul joy than that.

I'm thankful that I now see what a gift a "non-gift" really is!

No comments:

Post a Comment