“Times are tough.” “Have you seen the unemployment numbers?” “My husband just lost his job.” “We might have to close the doors this year.” “I don’t know how things could get worse. Gift giving isn’t going to happen this Christmas.”
Our generation is far from the first to have suffered through hard times. Indeed, these are far from the worst of hard times. Still, things are grim. Families are losing jobs and businesses are closing doors. The recession has hit us all. For my family, gift giving is not in the budget this year and I would be remiss if I did not confess my nine-year-inner child did momentarily cringe at the thought. Still as a Christian, I cannot help but wonder if this is God’s way of giving us all a little perspective, of reinvigorating the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus was, after all, born into far more humble means than can be found in most American homes in 2010.
So if you are anything like me and my husband, you have probably looked around your home and realized that gift giving is not only impractical this year, it’s unnecessary. We live in a nation that enjoys abundance even in times of crisis. We are among the most privileged humanity has ever known. So much so, I can only begin to imagine how self-absorbed and unaware our petty complaints must sound to those in real need the world round.
Christmas Gifts? For generations our brave men in women in uniform have been protecting our most prized possession, our most costly of Christmas gifts; our freedom. Most Americans have never traveled far enough from home to realize just how truly rare this freedom of ours is. As Americans, we will never truly know what it feels like not to have… possibilities. Most of us will never understand what real hopelessness looks like. Perhaps that is why most of us are not as humbled by our circumstances as we ought to be. From the beginning of our nation’s history, our soldiers have been counting the costs and paying the ultimate price for these freedoms, these luxuries, these possibilities we so often take for granted. Some do not even have families of their own to come home to and yet still, they fight for ours. Others will spend Christmas in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the hospital or alone in old age. In light of these realities, I am embarrassed I have complained at all. So often, we dwell so heavily on the tiny negatives that tarnish our perfectly pristine expectations of reality that we cannot see all of the immense blessings that surround us.
The world tells us to take time for ourselves, to think of ourselves more, to give ourselves special love and attention first. The world tells us that that is the way to a happier life. But God tells us differently. God tells us to turn our attention to others, to focus our concern on others and to give our love to others first. God tells that that is the way to a happier life. And he does not tell the government to do it on our behalves. He tells us to do it ourselves.
This Christmas, I have been afforded the rare pleasure of watching reciprocal giving of monumental proportions. I am no expert in happiness but I can say I have never seen so many smiling faces in one room as I did this past weekend at the Army’s 2-135th Aviation Support Battalion Christmas Party. And I can confidently say that not one person, soldier or volunteer, was there because they were thinking of their own needs first. Sometimes this world we live in gets the truth so messed up, it cannot seem to fish its way out of it.
I suppose that is why I am especially humbled by those businesses and individuals who were able to see beyond their own particular crisis this Christmas. Like our soldiers, they were able to see beyond themselves. Among these givers there were no clinched fists, there was no self-pity. There was no “what’s in it for me?” There were no demands. My pleas for troop support were met with open palms with what little or plenty each had to offer. And when there was no money to give, time was offered in its stead. The givers wanted no thanks and the soldiers expected no gifts. Every soul was thankful for the other’s sacrifice and no one was complaining about their own misfortune.
So perhaps this message was meant for you. I know that it was meant for me. Maybe, just maybe, your circumstances are not quite as abysmal as they might seem. Perhaps they are an opportunity for perspective. Perhaps the cure to sadness is all around you, on your street, in your office, in your church or in the Veteran’s nursing home nearby. Each and every day there is someone out there who needs your help, who needs your attention and who deserves your time. And remember that while I have chosen to name those businesses that helped make this past weekend a success, not one of them did it for the recognition, just as our soldiers never fight for your “thank you.”
If you take the time to give back, if you teach your children to do the same then together we will realize that gifts under the tree are not only unnecessary, they could never compete. Merry Christmas Colorado!
Thank You to these and so many more for their support of our troops: The Texas Roadhouse of Arvada and Thornton, Famous Dave's of Stapleton, Jim ‘N Nicks of Southlands Mall, Applebee's of Arvada, Woody's Pizza of Golden, Chili's of Lakewood, The Rocky Mountain USO, Costco of Arvada, Hillside Church, Applewood Baptist Church, 7th and 8th Grade Girls of Faith Christian Academy, Katerina Richey, Bandimere Speedway, Comcast Cable Western Division, Rich Bornhoft of The Bornhoft Group, Vintage Sales, Rock Property Services, Eric Etzwiler and Hobby Lobby of Arvada, Anna Lewellen of AnnaLew Photography, Chuck Renstrom Photography, Wine Country Baskets, Pat Murphy and Murphy's River Lodge of Estes Park, Cama Patterson and Byrnwood on the River of Estes Park, Bob and Peggy Oxford, Bob and Claudia Beauprez, Sean Hannity, The Denver Nuggets, Christy Sports, Dr. Scott Brody of Aesthetic Dental Designs at Plum Creek, Eagle Claw, Enstrom's Almond Toffee, Golden Sweets of Golden, The Outback Steakhouse, Starbucks at 104th and Tower, Meyer Hardware of Golden, Tammy Turner, Barb Bandimere, Karen Winkelman, Cathe Schreck, Doug Friesen, Sandra Friesen, Tim Goodwin, Barbara Bryant, Harry Matthews, Jean Brunneti, Janet Mathis, Nicole Trouchen, Jeff Trouchen, The Golden High School 24th Street Singers, Jack Goodwin, Sam Goodwin, Claire Goodwin, Nick Sharp, Patty Sharp, Courtney Sharp, Jordan Sharp, Steve Winkelman, Aaron Winkelman, Amy Winkelman, Zachary Sharp, Mike Lundgren, Pam Oxford, Shelley McKendry, Lynette Lundgren, Michaela Lundgren, Jenny Ivie, Leslie Graham, William Nickell of Golden Grounds Coffee, Diane Nickell, Karisa Nickell, Jesse Nickell, Dale Nickell, James Nickell, Abie Brown, Jacqui Poor, Janelle Duke, Nathan Brown, Jopy Willis, Audra Willis, Levi Willis, Faith Willis, Dave Lukasik, Tracy Lukasik, Judy Strange, Kathy Peterson, Raelene Kerner, Elise Sabbath, Pastor Calvin and wife Diane Wittman, Scott Ivie and Cherish Flieder of Cherished Solutions.