We’ve had Black Friday, when people push and shove and knock each other down trying to get a bargain. We’ve had Cyber Monday, when people sit home at their computers and overload servers and slow down the Internet trying to find a bargain. Both days focus on getting people to spend as much money as possible on as many products as possible, all in the name of Christmas giving.
Christmas isn’t about conspicuous consumption. It’s not about spending money for frivolous gadgets and gee-gaws to keep up with the neighbors or to fulfill the materialistic wishes of kids and adults. Christmas is about a little baby born in a manger—a tiny baby that grew into the man who gave His life on the cross to save us from our sins. He is worthy of our gifts, and giving gifts to our loved ones as symbols of gifts to Him is totally appropriate. However, when that gift-giving leads to shopping frenzies in which people can be injured, when those gifts become symbols of selfish greed, when Christmas becomes all about gimme, gimme, gimme…that’s the polar opposite of what Christmas should be all about.
Today is a day to give in the true meaning of Christmas. Giving Tuesday is a day to focus on helping others—volunteering and donating to charitable organizations. It’s a time to teach children the importance of helping those in need. It’s a time to slow down the frantic pace of shopping and decorating and partying and to think beyond our family and friends. To recognize that not everyone has the same advantages we do and to share our money and/or time to help someone else.
If you already give generously, thank you. Be an example to someone who doesn’t give like you do. Share your favorite charity on social media and encourage others to give by sharing why you believe in the organization or cause. Invite a friend to go with you when you volunteer or encourage your neighbor to join with you to help make Christmas a little merrier for the family down the street whose parent/spouse has lost their job.
Giving cash is great—every nonprofit always needs money to fund its programs. But writing a check to a charity isn’t the only way to give. Use your talents to create items that charitable organizations need: warm blankets for needy families, storage shelves for a charity providing clothing for job seekers, hygiene kits for the homeless. Volunteer to work at a food pantry or homeless shelter. Bake cookies and deliver them with kids’ handwritten Christmas cards to lonely people in a nursing home or in your neighborhood. Participate in a Christmas gift charity, such as Angel Tree or Toys for Tots. Some of my best Christmas memories are of giving a Christmas party for abused women and their children and of delivering Christmas gifts to needy children.
Look for a need that you can fill. I guarantee you won’t have to look far, and I promise you will enjoy giving to others far more than fighting the crowds or dealing with the Internet when most people are participating in the materialism of the season.
Since my health doesn’t allow me to volunteer as I have in the past, this year my giving will be limited to cash donations. This week, in addition to my normal giving, I’ve donated to Operation Christmas Child, the Salvation Army, and the Religious Freedom Coalition’s Christmas for Refugees (to provide a special Christmas dinner for children of Christian refugees from Syria).
Do you and your family make special contributions at Christmas? What are your favorite organizations or ways to give?