Joining up for my first time with the wonderful ladies at Carrots for Michaelmas, Dueling Moms and Molly Makes Do, for their ongoing Little Holy Days link up.
We’ve created a lot of great Advent traditions in our family. Now that we’ve gotten the hang of the wreaths and recipes, we’re working on remembering to make charitable giving a part of the season, too.
Advent is a wonderful time to make the extra effort to give, but for someone like me, who grew up associating “giving back” as just dropping an envelope in a basket every week, going the extra mile took some thought.
I thought I could share ideas that have worked for our busy family despite all the demands of the season. And hopefully to show that generosity does not always equal donating gobs of cash; a misconception I had for many years.
It starts with the cliché that charity does indeed start at home, in our families and within our closest circle of friends or community. I know when my loved ones are in need, even if they can’t or won’t tell me. I can offer a meal, babysitting, cash slipped in a card without drawing attention to their situation, and I know the favor will be paid forward in time to another.
And then I look a little further. On the homeschooling loops and local newsletters, and I learn of a friend of a friend who can maybe use those coats I was going to donate or who needs meals delivered. Through a middleman, I can give something.
And then I cast my net further by scanning the wanted ads on Craigslist. Around this time of year, many families are looking for presents for their children, warm winter clothes or a holiday meal.
Lastly, one of my favorite charities is ModestNeeds.org. They help raise money for families in the throes of a financial crisis. The stories on MN’s site will break your heart, but with very little money, these families are able to get over the hump and not slip into poverty.
Our family is blessed with a wonderful support network who have always given generously when we were in need. Without enthusiastic people to organize fundraisers and spread the word on your behalf, how do you get by? I’m sure many do not ask for help. Sometimes, we need to seek out those too strong to ask and offer help. And when desperation moves someone to ask for help, we need to give without question.
I’m not saying you can afford to respond to every Craigslist ad or Modest Needs post, but I suggest not second guessing the motivations behind the request or judging the person because of it. A liar, or a cheat will have to answer to God for his use of your donation. You will only have to answer for whether or not you gave when asked.
You don’t have to run a marathon or raise thousands of dollars. You can take a little of your time to deliver your old baby clothes to a single mom in need, take some of those cookies you baked and deliver them to a nursing home. Even with little to no money or time, charity can become a part of your Advent preparation. If you have a gift card you still haven’t used, why not pass it along to someone else? Or sometimes credit card reward points can be used purchase gift cards that you can have on hand.
And of course, your children will learn how to give from your example. Pick projects they can help in (picking out like new toys to donate to a family who lost all their belongs in a flood) and soon it will become a tradition they initiate each year, and perhaps tie into other liturgical seasons (like Lent)without any nudging on your part.
UPDATE: As I was finishing up this post and preparing to hit publish, I noticed Simcha posted a great companion piece over on the National Catholic Register. She makes some great suggestions, and I love her final thought.
And if this list annoys you — if you find yourself thinking, “Sheesh, who do these people think they are, anyway? They’re not entitled to my time and money. What ever happened to gratitude?” — well, maybe just take another route this year. Send your money to a local organized charity you trust, and don’t put yourself in a bad frame of mind worrying about it. Giving is giving!
What suggestions do you have for giving back this Advent and Christmas season?