With the holidays now in full swing, everyone is focusing on giving. I personally think giving should be an ongoing attitude that lasts all year, but even the stingiest of people seem to give at the year’s end (even if it’s more for a tax write off than charity). If you’re like me, you might feel guilty every time you pass the bell ringers, as if you need to explain that you have already given to the person who had the earlier shift when you entered the mall.
However, the true nature of giving is to not worry what others think and not worry if they notice. This is spelled out clearly in one of my husband’s favorite Bible passages, Matthew 6:2–4. He is one of the best people I know at this, and he teases me for feeling bad if I don’t put a physical check in the offering plate.
It’s much more personally fulfilling to give from the heart rather than out of obligation and pressure from others as well. Not to mention that giving $5 here and there and everywhere can easily add up in a month’s time. One way I have learned to give plenty without feeling guilty or obligated is to give out of my abundance. There are way more ways to give other than simply handing out money, and here are some examples:
• Clean Out the Closets: Whether you are single or have a spouse and six kids, we all have clothes we pass off every day to wear something else. Go through and thin out what you don’t use and give it to someone who can and will use it. I was recently given a lot of clothing for my soon-to-be-born daughter, which I appreciate dearly! If you don’t know anyone personally, ask your church or child’s school for suggestions, or donate to a local charity.*
• Come Out of the Closet: I’m not suggesting what you might think, but rather to think outside the box that contains your clothing. For example, as a writer and avid reader I have accumulated a lot of books over the years. Many have been read more than once and some never get read. Shelters, schools, churches, and even prisons often welcome such items for people to use as they pass the time or get help. I also discovered that hospice care greatly appreciates magazines, and anyone who has spent a good amount of time there with an ailing loved one would agree.
• Take Out Time: If you find yourself with extra time to spare (lucky dog!), then consider volunteering it to help others. Help pack or serve at a pantry, babysit for a frantic single mom, volunteer for needed vacancies at church, or visit those who are homebound and in nursing homes. My church has an awesome team of retired women who started a group known as WINGS (Women Involved iN God’s Service) to help the community where needed. I have personally helped with some projects at church through this group and admire their passion and service.
• Mentor Someone: Maybe you don’t have a lot of spare time, but you do have time to check in on a younger person and regularly pray with him or her. Meet for coffee a few times a month and make yourself available via call or text whenever needed. As someone in her 30s, I can relate to reaching out to teenagers as well as learning from people older than me. Sometimes it’s not so much the age as it is the stage of life and experience. Never take for granted your wisdom and what God might could use from your life to teach others.
• Carry A Covered Dish: Cliche for the South, I know. But you would be surprised how it might help someone who is sick or going through a tragedy to not have to worry about feeding their family one night. The company Take Them A Meal is awesome at this. All the planning is done online, and you can invite others to sign up as well. The menu is there for all to see so that there are no duplicate dates or the family is not eating lasagnas three days in a row (thought my husband would like that).
So think outside the gift box this holiday season and give out of your abundance!