“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank
The Christmas season has notoriously been dubbed ‘the season of giving’. But to be honest we should involve ourselves in acts of giving throughout the year. I find it discomforting that so much attention is drawn to the month of December as a time to give; where does that leave us the rest of the year? And often, in this very ‘giving season’, the true meaning often gets lost, and we find people feeling lonely and depressed. This probably has to do with the fact that many of us are out of practice. Like anything else, giving takes practice; and if someone hasn’t thought much about it since last December, of course they will struggle with it and become frustrated.
Why give? Well, for several reasons. For one thing, research shows that having a giving spirit is correlated to the following health benefits: increased immune system, improved cognitive performance, higher energy levels, lower heart rate, and balanced cortisol levels which result in less internal stress. Similar to a runner’s high, giving boosts levels of endorphin and many people experience a giver’s high.
And specifically how are we instructed to give ?
We have been called upon to be like God, who is the ultimate giver; God so loved the world that he gave. Psalms 37:21 says, ‘the godly are generous givers’; our giving is intended to be rooted in God’s love. In a world that is characterized as being impersonal; giving of all things should be very personal and meaningful. If you look at the amount of gift cards purchased or the long line of people waiting to return gifts after Christmas you will begin to see a picture illustrating that we aren’t taking the time to truly know and love one another.
So what now? Your Christmas shopping is most likely already done by this point. But it is not too late to start thinking about giving that little extra. How about baking something for someone using their favorite ingredients – warm vanilla spice cookies anyone? What about mailing a handmade card to that long distance family member? Arriving early to a holiday party to help get things ready? Giving your mama a massage? You will be surprised at how much appreciation you receive for giving just a little extra of your time.
2012 has not been the best year for me in terms of finances. I saved up, budgeted, and managed to pick up a few small gifts for my loved ones and close friends. But I am taking it a step further and hand-making some DIY gifts, and taking the time to show love. I trust that my family will appreciate these steps more so than a lavish store bought gift. This is a learning experience for me, and trust that I feel a bit uncomfortable with it, but I feel that God has convicted me recently to show His love in this way, and I pray that it will be well-received by my family.
Some other ideas…
Donate your time and volunteer with an organization you respect. This Christmas Eve morning, my boyfriend and I and a few of our friends are serving breakfast at an emergency shelter for women and children.
Another idea is to simply invite your friends over and don’t make any plans, just see what happens and enjoy where the conversation and laughter goes.
Make an assorted teabag wreath so your loved one can have one relaxing cup of tea each day for the 12 days of Christmas. (I did this for my mom – she loved it!)
Mix together a handmade bath scrub: mix together Epsom salt, vitamin E oil, grape seed oil, and any combination of scented oils to make an indulgent scrub for your friends to relax with. I recruited the help of my boyfriend to make Body Scrubs for several of our close friends this year. (we made coffee scented and peppermint green tea scented)
For a super simple idea: Chocolate-Dipped Candy Canes. (I made these for my coworkers)
And here’s a final thought. We are all stressed out. We are all tired and possibly dissatisfied with certain pieces of our lives. But leave the pain and anxiety at the cross this holiday season. Mediate and pray for a few moments each morning. Aim to find comfort and peace and to be a role model of optimism and gratefulness to those around you. Take in each moment as it comes, find reasons to smile and laugh, and seek inner joy.
Maybe a 2013 resolution of ‘developing a more giving spirit is in order?