without cost you are to give

I have felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude over the past few weeks.  Perhaps it’s the holiday season, perhaps it’s the time I was able to spend with my family over the Thanksgiving holiday, perhaps it’s the realization that this trip I’m taking next year will soon be a reality.  But regardless, I have been struck by a deep desire to give thanks, and a deep desire to give back.

This morning, on my way into church (me and all the 70 year old Catholics in Charlotte went to the 7:30 service; it was AWESOME), I stopped by the “giving tree”.  I was expecting to see tags for children asking for toys, clothing, or school supplies.  But what I found moved me even more.

Have I figured out my purpose in life?  No.  Can I cure cancer, or hunger; or rid the world of hatred and poverty?  Certainly not any time this week.  Can I buy a mens’ size medium shirt for a neighbor in need?  I would give that a resounding yes.

The holidays are, of course, a perfect time to give back to others. We are reminded of how lucky we are to be surrounded by friends and family, warm homes, and good fortune. Christians are reminded of one of the most miraculous events in the history of our faith (to clarify: baby Jesus was born on Christmas, and went on to become a pretty cool dude who helped a bunch of people). It’s a season that’s cozy and warm and full of love and giving.

The other morning I read this passage from the Bible:

“Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give”
– Matthew 9:8

Often, being thankful is enough. Gratitude is important. It enriches our lives. But there’s something more to the equation. Call it paying it forward, or giving back, whatever you want. Just as gratitude is a part of our soul, so is charity. So, with that knowledge, I’ve tried to give back in small ways recently. We can easily make a difference in somebody’s holiday by spending just $10 or $20. If you’re looking for [painfully easy] ways to help those in need during the holiday season, here are a few suggestions:

1. Food Drives. In Charlotte, Loaves and Fishes is a great local charity that delivers “a week’s worth of nutritious groceries to individuals and families in a short-term crisis”. Harris Teeter as well as many other businesses and yoga studios are hosting food drives; it’s as easy as going to the store, buying some nonperishable food items [shameless plug here for healthy staples like canned beans, minute rice, 100% juice, canned produce, and peanut butter – all very cheap], and bringing them to the closest drop-off location. Other cities and towns have similar programs; I’m sure a quick Google search could direct you to local drives. And – maybe this is just me – but it’s strangely fun to grocery shop for someone else.

2. Giving trees. Numerous churches, schools, and businesses have gift or giving trees that list out specific needs of an individual or family. Just head over to Target [you know you’re there on a weekly basis anyways] and pick up the requested goods. Just like when giving to the food drive, you know that the gifts you buy will be put directly into the hands of those who need them.

3. Toys for Tots. A genius idea from my dear friend Shay: when you throw your Christmas party this year, ask your guests to bring a wrapped children’s toy in lieu of food, booze, or housewarming gifts. It’s another easy way to bring a smile to a child’s face this holiday season. And who doesn’t want to go toy shopping?

So don’t be a scrooge. Instead, scrounge around, find a few bucks, and go do something charitable with them. You won’t regret it.

I love it when you write to me.

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