There are a lot of things that I want to teach my children over the next few “moldable” years. One of those things is compassion and giving. This holiday season has brought about many tears for me. Partly because of the loss our family suffered when Rich’s mom died and partly because of the loss that so many families suffer through every day. When I think of children waking up on Christmas morning to no gifts it breaks my heart. Gifts are not the reason for Christmas but as a parent I can only imagine the heartache I would feel in not being able to give my children the magic of Christmas morning. Some of these families can’t even provide for their children’s most basic needs let alone offer them stockings filled by Santa and brightly wrapped gifts under the tree.
If you have never been to a women and children’s shelter then you have lived a sheltered life. I have visited those places and even volunteered in a few. Some of the women are there because of bad choices and some of them are their because of bad circumstances. Regardless of how they got there, it isn’t our place to pass judgment. I thought this morning about how Christians (me included) are quick to volunteer in the church nursery, participate in various study groups and show up for the church work day. We walk away feeling smug as though we are truly “serving” as Jesus called us to serve. We never think about the scriptures that tell us to care for the widows and orphans. We forget about the messy, dingy, dark parts of service. We choose to not think about those that are homeless or struggling. Those places, those things infringe on our comfort and leave a lasting impression that brings about a certain level of sorrow.
Oh yes, we will pick an angel off an angel tree and gladly buy a small toy for our designated child. We will donate food to our church food pantry and discard an unpopular toy in to the toys for tots bin but have we really thought about what it means to truly “give”. I’m talking about giving when it isn’t comfortable and sometimes even when it hurts. I’m talking about laying aside our own wants to supply someone else’s needs. What are we teaching our own children? We are teaching them that Santa brings lots of gifts and that Christmas is a time to open up multiple packages as fast as possible giving little thought to the actual gift or the giver. In some cases, we teach them that Jesus is the reason for the season but are we REALLY showing them the love of Christ?
In this world of instant gratification, astronomical credit card debt and electronic gadgets, have we ever stopped to consider what our actions truly say. I work around people every day that have money. I’m talking about lots of money. Having money doesn’t make you a bad person but when I think about the amount of money that is wasted on dining out, fancy wine, sports cars, clothes, etc. I just have to wonder when our priorities shifted so drastically. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone because; although, I do not own a fancy sports car and don’t drink fine wine, I do shop A LOT for my children. My kids have clothes and shoes shoved in every drawer and closet of our home. Oh and the toys…….our house is literally busting at the seams with toys. My children have no concept of want……….most of their desires are met by either their parents or their grandparents. They don’t know what it is to wear shoes with holes in them or to be told “I’m sorry we can’t afford that”. Those things are foreign to them and I pray that we never have to utter those words to them. But some people do have those struggles and maybe instead of my children always enjoying the bounty of God’s blessings……..maybe they should get to be one of those blessings?
I want my children to grow up with tender hearts and open hands. I want them to always be willing to go do the dirty work. To give, to love, to offer up whatever they can without passing judgment on those they are giving to. I have not always been great at these things but God isn’t finished with me. I consider myself to be a compassionate person – I would give you the shirt off my back and some would even call me naïve but that doesn’t mean that I always give without a smidge of smugness or a hint of judgment. That I never wonder why this person is in the situation they are in – what mistake they made to land themselves in this predicament. Those feelings and judgments negate my giving……..they make me as bad as the person who has everything and refuses to give. Those crevices and cracks are what God is working on in me.
The question I leave you with is this………..where are you on this road? Have you thought about what we are teaching our next generation, our children. As you watch your children experience the awe of Christmas morning, think about those children who will be waking up in a shelter. Those children whose lives have been devastated by drugs, abuse, alcoholism, violence, job loss, illness. Those families that are being torn apart by circumstances that seem too big. Mothers and fathers who will pray this holiday season for a miracle to keep their lights on or put food on the table. Parents who will not watch their children delight in the fact that Santa came. Children who will hope that next year Santa will find them.
WE are His hands and feet……..if WE don’t do it then who will?