The Season of Giving
Let me tell you a story.
Several years ago, I met a woman in church named Rachel. Appropriate name for a church-going woman, as Rachel was a character in the Bible, the mother to Joseph and Benjamin, from whom two of the Twelve Tribes of Israel originated.
The Rachel I knew was quiet and reserved. While I’m sure she had many friends, she attended church alone. I found out that after college, she moved about two hours away from home to pursue a career in the metal building industry. Starting from scratch in a new area isn’t easy for everyone, but it was amazing to watch Rachel in a religious environment. She joined the church band, and volunteered as a youth leader. It was amazing to watch a timid woman come alive for a cause that fulfilled her.
I also met a married couple, Mike and Karen. Mike had recently been forced to quit his job because of a neurological condition that affected everything in his daily life and caused him great pain. The young couple struggled financially because of all the medical expenses, but still smiled on Sunday morning despite the hurt they felt the other six days of the week.
At church, everyone gave the couple well wishes and prayers, including me. I thought it was the right thing to do. While I gave my gifts and tithes every week to the church, I never gave to Mike and Karen.
We give gifts to our families, significant others, and children. But do all of us give to complete strangers?
Rachel did. Selflessly.
Because of her, this was a season of giving I would never forget.
One Sunday morning, Mike and Karen walked into our metal church building, and you could tell something was different. They were hugging people, sharing the joy of the season, and sharing a new experience with the crowd. The night before, someone had rung the doorbell, but when Mike answered the door, there was no one there. Only an anonymous jar, filled with cash, decorated the porch. Next to the jar, sat a copy of the novel, “Christmas Jars.”
I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but there are several instances just like the one above described in the novel. It’s a wonderful read, especially during this time of year. Since it was published nine years ago, it’s become a kind of phenomenon and picked up steam as a way people donate money to those in need during the holidays.
Rachel wasn’t rich by any standard, but she still gave unselfishly. She never told Mike and Karen that the Christmas Jar was from her, and still to this day, they don’t know who their mysterious benefactor was.
But that’s not where the story ends. This act of kindness inspired them.
Now, every year, Mike and Karen anonymously give the gift of a Christmas jar to a family in need. They ‘pay it forward’ despite massive medical bills and hospital fees. At a time when they were drowning financially, they found solace in a random stranger’s gift: A metaphorical life preserver to grab. The amount of money they gave wasn’t important. It was the fact that someone decided to make an impact on their lives, and meet their emotional needs.
It inspired me too.
I tell this story of the season to anyone who will listen come Christmas time. It’s a perfect example of what people can do for one another to lift each other’s spirits, to remind folks they can make a difference.
The Christmas Jar story is a transformative message about the power of giving. This holiday season, maybe it’s time for you to set off a chain reaction of unexpected generosity. You never know how it will affect someone else, or how it will affect you.Photo courtesy: Poppet with a camera