October 23, 2010

The Gift of Giving

I love to give. And even more, I love to see my children get excited about giving. That is one of the reasons I get excited this time of year. More than any other time of the year, there are countless opportunities to give and be a blessing to others.

Something that helped spur on our spirit of giving this week was watching TV. (Yes, there is something good on TV.) We were watching '18 Kids and Counting' on Netflix instant download (Season 2: Episodes 5 & 6). We were especially excited about this episode because it was all about how some of the Duggar family went down to El Salvador on a missions trip. Since our oldest son was fortunate enough to go to El Salvador in 2007, this episode really peaked our interest.

The episode confirmed to us what Christopher had tried to express when he returned from his trip: The people of El Salvador have nothing. They live in shacks, can go days without food, have no sanitary water or sewer systems and rarely receive any type of health care.  One out of 10 of the children in El Salvador are orphans, yet it is one of the hardest countries in the world from which to adopt.

As we watched, my youngest kids were full of questions: "You mean that little girl has NO mommy or daddy?" ... "Where is their REAL house?  They don't live in that, do they?"... "What happens if they don't get to eat supper that day?  Will someone feed them tomorrow?"

They were good questions.  They were questions we all should be asking.  And I was extra glad they were asking them that night because it presented a perfect time to bring out one of my favorite catalogs...

...the Samaritan's Purse Christmas catalog.  This is no ordinary catalog!  Where else can you shop for rice and cows and chickens and mosquito nets and soccer balls and water filtration systems...all in one place.  You can even shop for a school or a fishing boat! 

So while we talked about the kids in El Salvador, we paged through the catalog and talked about how we can feed a baby in Africa for a week for $9... or feed a little girl in Calcutta for a week for $7... or provide clean drinking water for a family for a lifetime for $100.  (A 'gift' idea that became even more of a reality this week as we read about all the people in Haiti dying from cholera because of a lack of sanitary drinking water.)

Right away Colin was interested in buying milk and chickens.  Isaac thought sending kids soccer balls would be cool.  We all agreed the clean drinking water would be awesome.  I asked the boys to page through the catalog over the next month and decide what we should buy.  I am so excited so see what they end up choosing!

In the meantime, we moved on to one of my other favorite giving projects:  Operation Christmas Child.  You grab a shoe box, decide if you want to shop for a girl or a boy and head to the store.  (I love this because I get to shop for a girl - yeah!) It is such an easy project and the kids love picking out the gifts to put in the shoe boxes.  

OCC gives you some 'do and dont's' to follow when shopping (ex: Yes - balls and dolls.  No -toy guns, perishable food, etc.)  Some gifts are practical: toothpaste, socks, school supplies...  Some, not so much:  dolls, cars, hard candy, stickers...  (They also ask for a small donation to help with shipping but this is optional.)

Packing the boxes is so fun even when fitting everything in becomes a challenge!  Sometimes its hard fitting all this...

...into this (Love the Miss Kitty band-aids that Colin picked out!):

And sometimes you have to get creative when the gift involves something like a soccer ball...

We ended up deflating the ball and buying a pump for it - which we also enclosed in the box - so they can re-inflate it once it gets to its destination! (Isaac seems to have the soccer ball theme stuck in his head.)  But we got it all in and can't wait to drop off at our church after we decorate the box up a little.  And while we can't guarantee it will end up in El Salvador, we know it will be a blessing to a child somewhere who has much less than we can ever imagine.

As I write this, it occurs to me that it seems appropriate that Thanksgiving comes before Christmas.  We have so much to be thankful for, especially in America.  Even with the economic downfall and the events of the last couple of years, we are so better off than the majority of the world.

If we stop to reflect on all that we have, I think we would find that, for most of us, there is nothing that we really need - at Christmas or any other time.  But all of us have something we can give -  whether it is time,  money, gifts, or just good old-fashioned love.  No matter our circumstances, there is always someone, somewhere, who has it much worse than we do.  It is when we realize how much we have that we can fully give.  And not just give but give with joy and a grateful heart!

There is always someone we can be a blessing to not only at Christmas but at anytime of the year.  Once we acknowledge that and begin to truly live it, then maybe, just maybe, we can start to make this world a better place.  And along the way, discover the gift of giving.

"A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor." - Proverbs 22:9


For more information about Samaritan's Purse or Operation Christmas Child, click on their links.

What is one of your favorite ways to give during this season or any other?

PS - Here's one of Christopher (far left) during his trip to El Salvador.  
Just look at all those beautiful smiling faces!

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