Sunday, December 06, 2015

The Joy Of Giving


I'm about twenty days early but I bought a Christmas present yesterday. Actually, it was a gift card for somebody on my list but you get the idea. Some years I've waited until December 24th to commence. In the good old days, my nieces Meagan and Karis were my shopping princesses. All I really had to do was pick up the tab and tag along while they very carefully selected the presents that would bear my name under the tree. But now, Karis manages a business and Meagan lives in Africa so I'm on my own. Don't get me wrong- I LOVE CHRISTMAS. I love the season. I love being with loved ones. I love giving! I'm just a terrible shopper. Maybe I should advertise for an adviser on Craigslist!

I wish you could know Ashley. She's eight years old and we have a connection although I'm not quite sure how it transpired. I teach her older sister but this predated that. My guess it has to do with my being in her class every year since kindergarten talking about our project at WCS to help build and sustain Christian orphanages in Honduras and Haiti. Regardless of how it happened, Ashley always gives me a big smile and hug when I see her at lunch. That's one of the benefits of my schedule- eating with the little kids instead of the big ones. The food is the same but I rarely have to wait in line and the company is awesome!

Several weeks ago and completely out of the blue at lunch one day, Ashley approached me at lunch and exclaimed:
"I can't wait for Christmas!"

Of course, I asked, "Why?" (Like an eight year old needs a reason to be excited about the favorite holiday for most American children.) Her reply?
"Because I get to give you a present!"

I was overwhelmed with awe and a little bit ashamed of myself that I am not so thrilled at the thought of being generous. Ashley sees giving as a blessing to herself but I still have the obligation strain tamping down my joy at times.

I heard a radio commercial while I was in my car over the Thanksgiving break which turned my stomach a little bit. The ad, and I don't even recall the company it was representing, referred to the holiday as Thanksgetting. I don't believe they meant it in a mean-spirited way but it just typifies the mindset we often have of gimme-gimme-gimme. One of my favorite passages was penned by Paul when he spoke of the generosity of the believers in Macedonia in the first four verses of 2 Corinthians 8: 
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people
I don't want to stretch this analogy too far. Ashley's family is not in desperate poverty and the giving of a small present to a teacher would not have the impact of coming to the aid of a large group in deep need. But the fact that she sees giving as a joy, as the Macedonians did two millenia ago, weeks in advance, is a remarkable gift in itself. I hope someday to be Ashley's Bible teacher. Maybe I can repay her enthusiasm for giving with enthusiasm for teaching her more about Jesus. The lessons I teach her will come partly from the lessons she taught me.  That's the best gift she could ever give me. Merry Christmas, Ashley!

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e-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

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