I have worn second hand clothes. I have eaten the cheese, canned pork, peanut butter and barley cereal from a government food supplement program. I don’t recall every talking of that time in my life with anyone. Not even those I held as close personal friends. I do use it as an important anchor, a reminder of a central time in my life, a reminder that not everyone lives a plentiful life. Not even in these days of abundance. Most importantly it reminds me that good people gave me clothing when I needed it and the commodities program provided additional food items my family needed.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ – Matthew 25:34-36 (NIV)
That brief period of life did not mean much to me then, a child with no life experience from which to draw. Over the years, however, each living day it has become to mean more. Suzie-Q and I haven’t always had a lot to give, but we’ve volunteered our time putting together Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets and collecting toys. Items that were given to young military families who barely had two pennies to rub together at the end of the month much less the money to spend for big holiday meals and gifts. Experiencing the same period in our lives, we knew that Christmas could just as easily be a depressing time as it could be a time of joy.
These days, we are certainly blessed, so we make a concerted effort to give back. Find a charity that puts most of your donated money toward meeting needs of the less fortunate. The Salvation Army does. Sometimes people find it difficult to part with their hard-earned dollars, but it doesn’t have to be cash. You can also donate used clothing, used furniture and food. I’d wager that if you went through your closets and overstuffed drawers, you’d find useful clothing you haven’t worn in ages. There are people including children who simply do not have adequate clothing, especially during winter. Donate to the community food bank. Donate your time. You will discover that there is real joy in giving. That is a tremendous and worthwhile return on your small investment.
Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time for everything.
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. – Ecclesiastes 3: 12-13 (NIV)
This is the time that we celebrate the greatest Gift ever given to humankind. Celebrate this time by ensuring it is a time for giving.