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Wednesday, Sep. 2, 2015

Look for ways to give to lift people's spirits this season and all year long

Friday, December 16, 2011

"You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving"

I recently saw that quote on a poster, and it caused me to think. As Christians, we are called to love. No surprises there. It is, after all, what distinguishes us from the non-Christian, right? Jesus, who made the ultimate sacrifice, knew the cost of true love.

So here we are, only a few days from His birthday, and the message of "giving" is hard to miss. We are surrounded by opportunities to bring hope to others who are grieving or discouraged or just plain tired.

Unfortunately, many of us will not take advantage of these occasions. Why? Because we, too, are stressed and exhausted. Our holiday schedules are just too demanding, causing our thoughts to run amok with self-centered questions: Why can't someone help take the load off of MY shoulders? Why do I always have to do all the work? If I can just get through the holidays...

Sadly, too many of us will do the predictable this Christmas season. We will spend too much, eat too much, stress too much, all the while missing the "love" part of giving, and come January, when all the ornaments are packed away in Styrofoam popcorn and dragged to the attic, we'll swear it won't be like this next year. But it will be ... unless we get serious about how much we are missing by dismissing what truly matters.

So, what if we made THIS Christmas different? Starting right now. What if we paused, reevaluated our priorities and focused our giving on loving others?

Dave and I attended church in Kansas City a few weeks ago, and the pastor spoke of his family's Christmas commitment. For every dollar they spend on others, they match it with a donation to feed the poor of their community. He challenged his congregation to do the same.

Now I realize that it's a little late to make a pledge of that magnitude, but there are certainly smaller things we can do to spread some Christmas cheer.

When our children were younger, they predictably made us coupon booklets. No gift has ever meant as much. Each slip of paper, neatly (somewhat) tied with a ribbon, contained a pledge for them to do a task for their dad or me. "I will wash your car." "I will not argue with my brothers for a full day." "I will be quiet for an hour." Misspelled and smudged with spaghetti sauce or creamy chocolate, they were letters of love.

Our local church has been involved in a "Live to Love" campaign in which our small groups work together to help local citizens. The first week my group played bingo with residents of a senior citizen care facility.

Over the next month we fed the junior college dorm students, cleaned a yard, helped with Trunk or Treat and provided meals for some people who were struggling. Each group did similar things, all intended to demonstrate love by giving to others. There were also suggestions for individuals.

During each church service we chose an envelope which contained a note card telling us our objective to "love" for that week. For some it was "Pay for the soda for the person ahead of you in line" or "Help a co-worker with a task" or "Buy lunch for someone you recently met."

Our pastor was to pay for a stranger's carwash, so he placed the quarters in an envelope, sealed it and taped it to the coin box inside one of the stalls. Couldn't you do something similar and write on the envelope "Merry Christmas. Jesus loves you"? What a great way to brighten someone's holiday!

"You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving"

I pray we all give of ourselves this year so that Christ's gift of love will bring hope to those who, like so many of us, are just waiting for someone to care.

Patty LaRoche
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