When I was a child, my family fully embraced the traditions of Christmas. We decorated our home with the most cherished ornaments, lights, and bows. We handmade or purchased gifts with much thought about the receiver. We made plans to go to Grandma’s house for Christmas Eve, and my mother allowed us kids to be a part of the month-long baking of cookies, cakes, and holiday pies. Our home functioned much like every other home in our neighborhood. However, with all that holiday excitement occurring in our house, there was one tradition I looked forward to above all the other activities, and that favorite activity was the day my mother would take me to select a child off of the Salvation Army Angel Tree.
I always selected a girl who was most like myself. Then, with a budget clearly spelled out (Yes, I understood the parameters of a budget at 8 years old and I was a thrifty shopper even then!), my mother and I would purchase one toy, one stuffed animal, one outfit, hygiene products, a bag of candy, and a box of candy canes! I loved rushing home and watching my mom carefully wrap each individual gift with colorful paper and Christmas bows. But before we would seal up the box, I would go to my drawer and pull out my most favorite pair of pajamas. I would select the pair that was most like new, and I would wrap them up myself. My mother told me that I should give something of my own to this child and not just buy everything. And so, every year I would carefully select the perfect pair of pajamas and include them in the box. And I loved it. Of course, later in the week I would forget that my beloved PJ’s were given away and riffle through my clothes for a second in search of something to wear. But then a smile would come to my face as I realized where they had gone.
I haven’t selected a child off of the Salvation Army Angel Tree for many years now, but I’m thankful my mother began this tradition of giving that has lasted my whole life. As I’ve gotten older, the opportunity to give has taken on various forms: visiting nursing home residents, assisting in children’s classes at church, getting involved with groups that help to clean up the devastation of a natural disaster, and even traveling to other countries to build schools, help orphaned children, and give medical attention to those in need.
These experiences have taught me many things, but the greatest one is this: The spirit of giving doesn’t have to be confined to the Christmas season. Additionally, blessings are not only reserved for the receiver but are also poured out to the giver. Don’t be afraid to give of yourself this Christmas and throughout the year—there is no shortage of blessings to be given . . . or received.
Guest contributor: Shae Beery