Just As I Thought

Lots to be thankful for

I’m healthy. I have a good job, a nice house, a nice car, and lots of other nice stuff. I have pets that keep me from being lonely and some really good people in my life. Dad & Sally, Mom & Eddie, Tony, Karen, & Hannah, Brendan & Patrick, Maura, Susie, Kirk, Eric & Shauna, Nancy & Joe, Jann, Danielle, Sara & Lance, Lily & Io…
I don’t worry about whether I will be able to eat today, or whether I will find a safe place to sleep. All the concerns and complaints I have surrounding my life are petty, unimportant, and pointless.
There are a lot of people who can’t say the same.
Take some time today to make note of that, and then do something about it.
I’d like to share something written by my friend Sara that might get you thinking about what you can do. Read on.

Children And The Christmas Spirit

The wonder of Christmas for children is the magic of Santa Claus, gifts, music, the scent of hot apple cider, caroling, family coming for a visit, sometimes even snow here in Texas! …all these experiences add up to memories a child can relish their entire life.

But what if the true meaning of Christmas–the birth of a baby who gave his life with love–was something children could come to understand on a daily basis? How do we impress on our children that giving is more than a gift wrapped in fancy paper?

That was a question that was important to me in a world of commercialism. Don’t get me wrong–I love the holidays…the sense of anticipation, decorating a tree, seeing those I love around a table… sending out the family newsletter; Kwaanza, Winter Solstice
and Hannukah cards, too–but as I’ve become a parent, I realized my actions are bound to be mimicked by my children, and what actions did I want them to be aware of?

So, my children and I do what I call “runs”. Once every few months, during the day, we go out on the streets of Austin, find folks who are homeless, and ask them what they need. We make a list, and we check it twice, and we run to Target or Wendy’s or whatever place will fill their need. And we return to the same spot, delivering the goods (from food to mittens to bottled water), no questions asked.

I started this when my first daughter, Lily, was about two. Some people expressed concern about this activity of ours: “What if they attack you?” or “Do you think it’s safe?” And I always say the same thing: “It’s not unsafe when you think smart and you care at the same time.”

I realize this is a small service based on immediate need. It doesn’t rehabilitate. It doesn’t change much for the people we care for. But, last year, when Lily was six, I watched her talk to a runaway teen who was 8 months pregnant. The love and attention on my
daughter’s face was astounding, and it lead to a greater discussion once we were back in the car and on our way. These are serious, gem filled moments that amaze me. It has taught both of my daughters compassion, and taught them that the world is full of people down on their luck. And the double blessing is that these folks we meet end up feeling loved, as well. They are gracious, and surprised, that a woman and two children would take them time to ask, “How are you doing today? What can we do for you?”

Some people might feel this isn’t a way for them. I understand. I don’t expect everyone to jump on the bandwagon and help the homeless in the method I’ve chosen. But there are other ideas I would like to share with you…

We have a giving box, and when our girls receive their allowance, they can chose to add to this box. When the box is full, Lily likes to pour the contents into a plastic bag and add a homemade letter. Then we hop in the car and find a person in need, usually a homeless woman. Once we found a woman in an alley, with her dog, sitting on an old Indian blanket, and when we hopped out of the car and explained we had a baggie full of dollars for her, she started to cry and said, “I just finished praying to God that I would find some money for my medicine. They cut off my social security check, and I haven’t known what to do…” I don’t know how to describe to you the holiness of the moment, but Lily and I walked back to the car in silence, tears in our eyes, as well.

Try this at home, if just to start a dialogue with your children…Decorate a shoebox at a family meeting and decide…what service would you and your family like to help in the world? Maybe an animal shelter? Maybe an elderly person in your neighborhood who needs lawn care? Maybe your church or synagogue or temple? Although tithing is an ancient tradition, somehow it isn’t taught as often in the home. Tithing can be an essential part of setting an example and building a strong foundation for the future as an adult. It always brings emotional and spiritual reward to the giver and the receiver. Or come to the shelter at Christmas time and sing carols, bring cookies, drop off some sweaters. Come to the annual Homeless Sunrise Service, every
November 16, and be a part of a new morning, new hope.

Giving is the reason for the season, but the season can be all year round. Giving is a place within the heart, not a store within a mall, and children are eager to love this world they have been brought into. When we take our children by the hand and guide them into it, this world can be a beautiful, wondrous place.

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