One Thanksgiving day when I was in high school, my mom’s family didn’t gather because grandma & grandpa were in Florida. My dad’s side kept to a “Sunday After” date, which left us extended-family-less on the celebrated 4th Thursday. I’m not sure who brought it up, but it was decided we would spend the day serving Thanksgiving dinner to the less fortunate in downtown Columbus.
We had zero experience interacting with, let alone serving, the urban poor, but my mother called around and found a shift that we could assist a church soup kitchen for a few hours. We arrived to the overly crowded building, stuffed to the brim 50/50 with homeless and volunteers. We shuffled from here to there. I think my dad helped set up a few tables. I handed out some butter. We generally felt useless and questioned our good intentions. Then we went out to eat.
Looking back, I still want to honor our pure hearts and motives. We did the best with what we knew. But now I can see that we were more a part of the problem than the solution.
This season brings out the best in people, despite what Hallmark and common sermon series might tell you. People put on their A game. They might fight you over the last turkey or stampede to a new gaming system, but by-and-large the collective hearts of our society swells in our final calendar month. And then the donations pour into Goodwill centers and Salvation Army sites.
But can we call a spade a spade? We’re not giving out of the goodness of our hearts. We’re making room for more. I toss myself into this collective accusation. We narrow down what stays in circulation, we clean house, not because we believe that someone needs this scuffed up plastic toy barn this Christmas but because we know something bigger and better is being built at Santa’s workshop.
I read today about the top 7 ways
our good intentions cause headaches for others and I found myself both nodding and cursing my own tendencies. I want to do good. I want to help. I believe “someone could use this” but let’s be honest: no one, no matter how poor, needs my broken, stained, battered crap.
I’ve wondered many times before – aloud, even, to KLM – what it would be like to give more than my leftovers. What if I went shopping and gave away from that pile, not the worn last-season*, small tear in the elbow pile. Isn’t that where I might find what true generosity looks like?
What if we went to the store and purchased for these “angel tree” families as if they were our own, instead of going to Dollar General and buying the cheapest of everything so we can buy more for the amount of money we’ve allotted? (Now I’m really stomping on my own toes). Would we do that for our mothers-in-law? Our favorite cousin?
I want to be giving. I want to be kind. I want to think of others. But when it comes down to it, it seems I’m really looking for a way to rid myself of the guilt for the large pile of presents that await on the 25th.
*Let’s be honest. “Last season” is a tad trendy for me. I need to stop giving from the wore-it-in-high-school pile.