It is more blessed to give than to receive. It says so in the Bible, and it has been proven over and over. Likely it is more of a blessing to give to meet a bona fide need than to give an unneeded or unappreciated gift.
A year ago, needy people were easier to ignore than they are today. Just ask any food pantry operator or social services agency. And if you didn’t know someone living on the edge or just getting by then, chances are you do today. Perhaps it is a family member, or a close friend — or maybe it is you!
This issue of Word&Way is full of advice — practical advice — for making a difference in people’s lives during this holiday season and year round.
It is true that people need stuff. They need transportation. They need food. They need medical care and medicines. But they also need friends. Some need advocates and defenders. Virtually everyone needs a reason to live. People of faith certainly understand that.
Anyone of any means — or no means — can make a lasting difference in the lives of others right where he is.
If you are not exactly sure how to go about it, pull out a tablet of paper and a writing tool and have yourself a brainstorming session — even if your brain is the only one present. Be prepared to write a lot.
If your church has a newsletter or circulates prayer needs, read to discover human and spiritual needs. Find out who your church is helping and what avenues it is using to reach out to others. Determine what and who is needed.
Turn on the morning or evening news on your television or radio. People and agencies that help people are trying hard to help you know about their needs and opportunities for service.
Walk with your eyes wide open. This also applies to driving. Just as people can program themselves not to see the plight of others, they can learn to be observant. It’s a kind of Super-vision that God will enable, even if you have poor eyesight.
Resolve not to complain about how poorly you are feeling or about what you don’t have. People who are self-absorbed are less likely to impact their world — or anyone in it — for good.
Talk to people whom you know make contributions of money, time and talents to charitable causes. They not only are excellent sources of information; they usually are enthusiastic about what they do.
Build off an interest you already have. If you are drawn to senior citizens and their needs, search out those opportunities. Meal delivery, transportation, grocery shopping, housecleaning, companionship. The opportunities are endless.
If you are smarter than a fifth-grader and like children, you might be mentor-material. If you are grandmotherly or grandfatherly and know how to operate a rocking chair, you might enjoy being a hospital volunteer in a unit for premature infants. If you are a cancer survivor, you might be just what the doctor ordered for people undergoing treatment for the disease you survived.
If you are a good communicator, you might help a charity recruit volunteers, or get out its message through the media or assist in fund-raising.
If you have good organizational skills, just about any organization would want you involved in an effort to assist others by mobilizing resources.
If you are homebound but are able to write letters to servicemen, young mothers, sick people, grieving families and others who need encouragement, by all means do it. If you are able to pray for the needs of others, people will be drawn to you and the blessings you can help facilitate in their lives. You certainly will receive a blessing by being a blessing.
If you are able to make financial contributions to charitable causes, choose carefully and give as you are motivated. The cure for materialism is giving rather than desiring more for oneself. That is a much-needed freedom in our culture.
Finally, don’t try to hide the faith that motivates you to service. People who benefit from your service will ask you about your motivation because you will likely be out-of-step with the norm. Sincere and heartfelt service is both ministry and witness, just like Jesus practiced.
The beginning of the Advent, or Christmas, season is the perfect time to sort out priorities with God’s help. For some, this will become a life-changing exercise. It is all about Him, after all.