I hope everybody had a Christmas as merry as mine. I threw an Ugly Christmas Sweater Soiree and woke up to everything that I could possibly want under my Christmas tree (Apple Cider Vinegar, new leggings, and a solar powered portable phone charger).
Christmas is a Christian celebration that has been highly secularized. The holiday was originally intended to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ but has evolved to include stockings, cookies, lights, mistletoe, millions of presents, and lots of other joyful traditions. It is easy to get caught up in the madness of festivities (which certainly are not a bad thing if practiced with the true meaning of the season in mind) and it is also easy to be overcome by materialism and greed.
Giving is often pushed during the holidays. Black Friday, a huge day of shopping that many Americans take part in on the day following Thanksgiving, kicks off the excessive spending spree. Many people spend more money than their budget allows to make sure that everybody on their list can receive the most perfect gifts when December 25th rolls around. Personally, I love giving gifts much more than receiving them, so maybe it is not so surprising that I spend more money during the holiday season than I spend all year. (Do not fret, friends; it is all accounted for in my budget!)
This year, my desire to give took a slightly different turn and taught me a few lessons that really came as a shock to me. We give so much to our friends and family during this season, but it is easy to forget about the people who do not have anything or anybody giving to them. With my goals of being a missionary in the Dominican Republic, the desire to help others is there, but I often lose sight when I am in my beautiful, air-conditioned home and removed from the situation.
Last week after my Ugly Christmas Sweater Soiree, I was left with such a large amount of food that my family would not be able to eat in the few days before we left to go out of town. I thought about the man who I always see pan-handling about a mile from my house and decided to pack a lunch for him. I thought I remembered seeing another guy who hung out at the same intersection, so I brought enough for two people plus some snacks. I dragged my boyfriend along with me, who was quite apprehensive of me going under a bridge to feed homeless people. (I had to reassure him about twenty times that I would be very careful and not actually venture under the bridge.) After we got back in the car and drove past where we had given the man food, we realized that there were more people to feed.
The next day (which was Christmas Eve Eve), my dad asked me to take all three of my siblings to feed the homeless people with me. I was so excited to go back with enough food for all of the people living under the bridge, but was very upset at the reaction of my siblings. Not only were they far from excited about offering 20 minutes of their time to do something good, but my brothers were absolutely miserable and resistant. They could not believe that they were being forced to carry a couple of food items over to people who would otherwise have no real meals during this holiday season. Over the next few days, these kids would be receiving hundreds of dollar’s worth of present, but could not find it in them to spread a little holiday cheer by helping some people in need.
After this occurrence, I realized how important it is to encourage others to do good in this world. I want to help people who need it, but what I want more is to inspire and encourage other people who are capable to make a difference to do so.
If you have left over cookies or food this holiday season, go ahead and make a plate to take to the homeless person who is holding the “please help” sign on your way to work. Buy a couple canned goods on your trip to the grocery store to either donate directly to a homeless person (some have access to gas station microwaves and have said that this is what they need the most) or to donate through a food kitchen. The same goes for toiletries. People like to feel good about themselves, and being clean makes a world of difference. If you have spare toiletry items laying around your house (especially the travel sized ones from hotels) feel free to donate these too, as they are greatly needed!
Here is a list of items that are greatly needed for those living on the streets, as per a homeless women who lives under a bridge in my area:
- Toilet paper
- Canned goods
- Bed sheets (to create shelters)
- Canned goods
- Eating utensils
- Plastic bags
I was very apprehensive of posting about this experience, as I often face negative feedback when speaking of things that I do that are of this nature. I hear time and time again that I need to do out of the good of my heart and not for attention. I help people because I feel like that is what I am called to do and what I am morally obligated to do. I love helping others. I talk about it because I am a firm believer in leading by example. I want to inspire and encourage others but it is only possible to do so if they see that I am truly practicing what I preach.
As the holiday season comes to an end, I encourage each and every one of you to continue the spirit of giving throughout this new year. If you do not feel called to donate to those who are homeless but still would like an organization or cause to give to, please feel free to contact me and I can help pair you with one of my many favorite organizations that may be a better fit for you!