I don’t know about you, but I find this time of year, with the merriment and the gifts and the special treats, creates even more pain in my heart when I see others who are suffering, going without, or struggling. Of course, I’m not alone because this is also a season of increased giving and generosity, when many of us give to those in need.
I try to make it a practice to always have something to give, to have cash or gift cards in my wallet or a care package of warm socks in my car. I know it is debatable (because many have tried to debate me on this, sometimes quite angrily) whether it is ultimately helpful or harmful to give to the folks who practice the ancient role of beggar. I also believe it is very important for us to give to organizations who provide care, such as shelters and free clinics. So if this doesn’t resonate with you, please know I am not judging your choices. Please, give in ways that feels right to you.
But I’m going to tell you a story about why I give as I do. When my children were very little, and were just learning to read, they would practice reading the signs we drove past together. Well, one day we were stopped at a red light and there was a man begging at the corner with a sign that said “Hungry, please help me”. My kids were slowly working out together what the sign said, and just figured it out as the light changed and I drove on. They cried out in distress: “mom, that man was asking for help! How could you just drive past and not help if he was asking for help?”
In their simple understanding, they reminded me of something important. How can I be a person who just moves past someone asking for help? And, regardless of what good helping may do for all the beggars of the world in the long term, what does ignoring and hardening my heart do to me in the long term?
So I choose this practice now, in many ways because it is good for me and not solely to be good to others. I try to stay generous, in a world that sometimes makes us feel we need to hoard resources to be safe. I try to stay trusting, in a world that tells me trust will be abused by others and that we are all cheating. I try to stay loving and soft, in a world that tells me I need to “toughen up”. But I won’t let the world do that to me.
I close with this quote:
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.”
― Kurt Vonnegut