So the advertising barrage has begun. My Sunday paper is fat with print ad's, the TV is full of pre-Christmas and post-Thanksgiving specials for everything imaginable And Christmas lights are already being seen throughout Marin County.
This causes me to think a bit about the act of giving and what giving actually means to different people.
When I was a small child, giving actually meant getting! What was I going to get this year? Who was going to give me the biggest and best thing? When I matured a bit, giving became what was I going to make for the special people in my life? Mom and Dad got pinch-pots, my sister got a IOU for a room clean-up, my brother would get my old bike. These gifts were all given with love and the knowledge that money was scarce for a 10 year old, so this was the best it was going to be.
From the teen years on giving seemed to be based on money and size, or status, of a gift. This money-based trend continued through my early adulthood until about three years ago when my perspective began to change a lot. This is when I started to really recognize my own selfishness, and how this was affecting how my own daughter was viewing giving and receiving in her life.
Three years ago I was dropping off surplus clothes at the Salvation Army in San Rafael shortly before Thanksgiving and I noticed that a long line was forming outside of the their kitchen and dining room facility. I knew that due to the recession many more people were dependent on the services that the Salvation Army, and many other service organizations, offer to local residents. Though I have seen this type of line before, this time something stood out. In line was a young mother that I knew from my daughter's preschool. This hit me hard, because I had known her when she was happily married and doing well, but also knew that she had gotten a divorce fairly recently. Things had changed for her.
The next day I decided to take my daughter down to the Salvation Army office and talk to the manager about what they needed this year to take care of their clients, her response: EVERYTHING! It turns out they were running out of food daily, and little more was coming in to make up the difference. That same day I wrote an open email to my entire contact list, asking them to try and help out if they could. The response was overwhelmingly tepid. Though I did have some great friends come through with extreme expressions of giving, both of their time and money. To the Salvation Army these acts of giving made a difference to them and those that they serve. The management of the San Rafael branch thanked me personally. That felt good. It made my daughter smile and blush. Trips to the Salvation Army have now become part of our yearly Holiday routine.
So, what I received from this experience was this: an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. A holiday sensation I have not had for many, many years. I was given a gift, by giving. Sounds a little corny, but it was a real, and deeply rewarding feeling.
This Holiday Season I encourage everyone to leave their comfort zone for just a day or two and give of your time, your money, your spare clothes, and of yourself, so that others can feel that there is hope on the other side of despair, that there is a better day before them right around the corner. Little things do count for a lot, especially if you have nothing.
If you do have to do some shopping, try and do it locally, with local vendors. They are the backbone of our beautiful county.