“If you like it, you can have it,” my Geema’s always said, and she means it too. Geema is my mama’s mama, and she has instilled in us all, from the very beginning, that generosity and the desire to always do for others is a gift in and of itself. It’s a helping hand and a giving heart to want to provide for others, and I long to teach my daughter what has been passed down to me.
My little one, Naomi, is only 18 months old at the moment, and although she doesn’t quite understand the meaning of Christmas just yet or the giving of gifts, I witness her each and every day following my lead and mimicking my every move. I want her to not only appreciate what she has and has been given (love, health, a warm bed, besides all the extras), but I want her to truly appreciate doing for someone else as well. How can you truly appreciate what you have without giving it in return?
It takes our lead to ensure a generous, loving heart in our children, and it doesn’t take much more than a little effort to make someone else feel loved and appreciated. Growing up in middle Georgia, I vividly remember tagging along with my mama to deliver presents and needed goods to the Children’s Hospital and the Methodist Children’s Home, and sometimes we would visit with the elderly at nursing homes just to chat. You could bet on Geema always having something delicious to eat and pass out to neighbors and friends around the holidays, and at 85, she’s still always quick to unselfishly put others before herself. I’ve taken her “if you like it, you can have it” motto and run with it, so much so that I’ve gotten myself into a pickle a few times giving away favorite hats, scarves, and necklaces – you name it – to anyone who took an interest in my things. They’re just things and can be replaced, and I love to watch someone’s face light up unexpectedly with appreciation. I can always get another scarf (even gave one to Otis Redding’s mother-in-law years ago – true story)! I always love to see others happy and thankful.
We’ve all seen or known, or perhaps even been the kid from Funniest Home Videos that groans in disbelief and horror when he unwraps a present on Christmas morning only to unveil a pair of socks or something else less than par. It’s a natural reaction, I’m sure, and that reaction is what’s so funny because we all know he’s less than pleased but should be polite anyway (I’m just waiting for that moment with Naomi – camera in hand). We give, in hopes, that others are thankful. It doesn’t matter if it’s the most expensive, extravagant gift you can find (I’ll take an iPad and Tempurpedic slippers, please), but no, really it’s about doing for others as you would have them do for you – the golden rule for life, love, and giving at Christmas and all throughout the year. In this house, we have grateful hearts that overflow, and we want others to feel grateful too!
A few small ways Naomi and I are giving back this Christmas season:
Donating clothes and toys to family in need.
There are lots of ways to give back to the community this time of year. Fire stations, police stations, Toys for Tots drop-offs outside of retail stores, churches, and even the local news will let you know of places to drop off needed goods for those in your local area.
Operation Christmas Child
Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child donates shoeboxes full of toys to children in places all over the world. We have done this for the past couple of years and really enjoy following the boxes as they are distributed overseas. Pack your own shoebox or donate funds to aid in a full shoebox here: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/occ/
Having Naomi drop donations in the Salvation Army bell bucket at the store.
Naomi absolutely LOVES to drop donations in the bucket, and she helps others put their donations in the bucket too as they approach. When she gets a little older, we’ll get her a bell to ring!
Leaving special thank-you/holiday treats for the mailman.
This is such a kind gesture, even if so small. Public service members are an integral part of our community that deserve all the best, especially this time of year! Mailmen, teachers, policemen, military, firemen, and EMTs – you name it! We thank you!
Helping the homeless.
Fill a gently-used backpack with basic needs like soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste with extras like mittens and a book or two and delivering it to homeless shelter. I have wanted to do this for a while, and this year will be the first. There are many ways to help the needs in the homeless community including local coat and blanket drives around this time of year as well. Contact your local United Way, Union Mission, or news service to find out how to help.
Merry, merry Christmas and Happy New Year, y’all!