Loving Gifts:

Beyond The Wrapping Paper

by Lura Langenback

© 11/13/01

Around the holiday seasons, like Thanksgiving in the U.S., and Christmas it has become a tradition in the churches as well as many fine charity organizations, to give food and clothing to the poor folks who would not otherwise have such things. Volunteers work tirelessly to bring together things that people can use. Canned goods, boxed items, plus other non-perishables will be gathered, boxed and taken to a needy family or person. One or two days a year, these folks recieve food and clothing that they would not otherwise have. That's a blessing.

But what about the other 363 days? Many of the folks who recieve much needed boxes of food and clothing would also need these things during the year. Most of the time, because of their own families and focus, folks forget that fact. It is a wonderful thing to share at that time of year but why not do it all year long? It absolutely amazes me that the same folks who are so giving at Christmas do not realize that those same folks who are needy now, are needy the rest of the year too. So many just need a helping hand to get back up on their feet. Here are a few suggestions for the gifts that keep on giving.

1) Volunteer at the local soup kitchen. They always need a smiling face and a helpful hand.

2) When you buy your groceries, buy some extra food of the kind that you would normally eat and give that to the local food pantry. Most of what folks give to those places are things they wouldn't eat if they were paid to. Those places ALWAYS need food.

3) Adopt-a-kid in a hospital. This can be a lot of fun for your own child as well as a learning experience. The child in the hospital will need the friend. If it isn't possible for your child to visit because of age restrictions, have them make a picture or write a note to the sick child. Hospitals can be a scary place for a child who doesn't have a lot of visitors. When they go home, adopt another one. You can always keep in touch with the other child.

4) Adopt-a-Grandparent. So many of the folks in retirement and nursing homes have no one to visit them. Either their own families are too busy to visit or they have outlived them. Sometimes the one thing that would make life bearable would be a regular visit from someone who cared. You can read to them, play games, talk. They don't need a load of gifts nearly as much as they nee the company. Some love to have a child visiting as well. Not all want this though so you would want to ask and make sure.

5) Volunteer your time at a nursing home, hospital, church, or mission.

6) Adopt-a-family. Find a family who needs help or just needs family. There are so many folks out there that have no one to help them in any way. Sometimes all they need is an encouraging person with some advise or help.

7) Adopt-an-elderly-neighbor. Perhaps you have a neighbor who is all alone and needs the company. Or has a pet that needs extra care. It might just be a lawn that needs to be mowed or plants to water. Talking, reading, playing games works there too.

8) In your home, create a day called 'Act of Kindness Day', once a week, once every other week or whatever works for you. Each person must do something very special for someone not in the family. It has to be a kindness that will not bring praise to the person doing this. This teaches children a valuable lesson in giving and not expecting something in return, except maybe the satisfaction of doing something good for someone else.

9) Take five minutes of your time on the way to work to pray for someone who needs it. Not just your family needs, but find someone you don't even know and pray for them.

10) Organize folks in your church or office to be 'good deed doers'. Help with Meals- on-wheels. If there isn't one of those organizations in your area, start one. Our church used to help with homecooked meals for folks just home from the hospital. That's the hardest time to get along if someone is alone or has kids to support.

11) Become a hospice volunteer. I admit that this is not for everyone but it is very worthwhile to those who can do it.

12) Join or organize a 'Fix-a-house' committee and do random acts of kindness to folks who can't afford to fix up their homes.

13) Regularly visit a shut-in. It is so very hard on folks to be at home and no one comes to visit. Imagine what it would be like.

14) When you see a homeless person on the street, don't automatically think they are out to get your money or to rob you. Buy someone a meal or just smile and say hello. They ARE people too, no matter what they might look like, and it is highly unlikely that they want to be in that condition.

These are just a few ideas. I am absolutely certain you can think of something to do, if you really want to. But I can hear the objections now. 'I don't have time to do this.' 'We don't have money for these things.' 'My life is much too busy to be adding one more thing to it.' 'My kids would be holy terrors around old people.' 'I don't know how to act around kids, old people, whatever.' 'I can't be around sick people. They make me nervous.' And on and on. The list can be endless.

Let me ask you this. If the roles were reversed, if you were the one without family or living in a nursing home, hospital, shut-in with no visitors or living someplace out on the streets, what would you want? If you were the one all alone, raising some kids and no way to see you through the month, living from small paycheck or welfare check to food stamps, what would you want? Please bear in mind this one thing. Very few people in the United States are much more than a few paychecks away from poverty. I have visited Mexico. The poverty there is much worse than here. I am sure that other countries are even worse than that. What if it was you? What if for some reason, you found yourself in the position of losing your home, being hungry, losing your job? Would you want to see a friendly face who could help? Be a giver this year and from now on. The time and/or money may be difficult to come by but the rewards are incredible.