A Cheerful Giver

*Originally printed in The Hometown Treasure 2016 Countdown to Christmas*

As we move closer and closer to Christmas, people become more generous. Or maybe it’s just that there are more opportunities to give. There are food drives and donation boxes and red buckets everywhere you look.  There are opportunities like Shop with a Cop and Operation Christmas Child Shoebox.

My husband and I are raising two little boys. Living in a world filled with entitlement, we are trying to raise them to be givers, to earn what they have and give when they can. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” We are trying to raise cheerful givers.

One of the ways they love to give is by putting money in the red buckets. They love the ringing bells, and I know this time of year, I had better have money ready for them if we are heading to the store. The boys want to give on the way in the store and on the way out. They want to stop and talk to the bell ringers. They want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. If we head into a store and the red bucket isn’t on the stand, it makes them mad. How can they give if the bucket isn’t there?

Another way we are teaching them to give is going through their toys and donating some of them. They boys have an abundance of toys and at least once a year we go through them. Some of the toys get put up for a later time, some get thrown away, and some go into our donation pile. The first time I let the boys help sort through the toys to get rid of some, they were 5 and 3 years old. I will never forget that day. They asked who the toys were for that we were giving away. When I told them that there were kids out there who don’t have a lot of toys to play with or may not get presents for Christmas, they were shocked. My oldest picked up one of his favorite trucks and told me it was for the little boy who wouldn’t have any presents for Christmas.

That same year, we were asked to ring the bells for the Salvation Army red buckets. We were on our way to Wal-Mart for our turn when I decided I should explain to the boys once again what we were doing and why. I told them how they needed to remember to say “thank you” and “Merry Christmas” to the people who put money in the bucket. I told the boys that the money was not for us to keep. We were just helping. They wanted to know what the money was for so I told them it was to help buy food and presents for people who needed help.

It was one thing for the boys to hear that some kids don’t get presents for Christmas, but it was completely different for them to hear that some kids don’t have food. They didn’t understand that there are people out there who are hungry and don’t have food. They asked if we could stop and buy pizza for the hungry people. It was such an obvious thing to them. If people are hungry, we should feed them.

I think about my boys and the way they love to give and then I think about the way we adults look at giving. How many times have we looked at those red buckets and groaned? We pull the couple of coins out of our pocket and toss it in. Or we look away and walk as fast as we can past the bell ringers. Or we go through our closers and pull out the clothes that are about to fall apart or are so outdated that no one would ever want them and put those into our donation bag, but hang on to the nicest stuff even if it is 2 sizes too small and we’re never going to wear it again. How many times do we give not with a cheerful heart but with a sign or a groan or a roll of our eyes?

I think about that first Christmas. God gave us His best. He gave us His Son. And it wasn’t with a shrug or a groan. God didn’t think He was too busy to give to us that year that maybe next year He’d have the time. God didn’t look at us and say, “I’m just going to hang on to this because I know what those people will do with My Gift.” God didn’t look at the earth and shake His head and walk away. God looked at the world and loved us so much that He gave us the best that He had, the most He could give.

As we head through this Christmas season, as you hear the ringing bells and see the donation boxes, remember the way God gave to us on the first Christmas. Even if the only thing you have to give is a smile, give with a cheerful heart.

 

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Another great way to give is with our Hope 2.0. We have helped many people but new needs are still coming in. Please help me bring some hope and Christmas cheer to people who really need it.

Hope 2.0 Update

I thought I would give everyone an update on what’s going on with Hope for the Holidays 2.0. Things are moving very slowly, and I find myself needing a big dose of hope. The first time I did this, it got shared a lot. People saw the post and helped. This year feels different. People aren’t seeing the post even if they wanted to help.

I have shared and shared and shared the Hope post until I think my friends and family must be getting super annoyed with how many times it is showing up on their news feeds. And then I learn things like I had shared it 4 times before my best friend saw it. There are several people who I know I can count on to read and share no matter what I write, and they never saw it (or have just stopped sharing and liking my words.) I’ve shared in a couple of groups with very little response even when I’ve just been asking for prayer and nothing else.

It all makes me very nervous and scared and leavings me needing my own hope. I have to take a moment and remember that everything I do here is a giant leap of faith. I remember that I said we were going to move, help and be brave. I need to remember the brave part. I remember that God has a plan and I truly believe that the needs posted here will be filled.

And then I climb in bed at night, and it’s dark out, and I lay awake thinking about all this. I think about all the people who have posted about having a need. I think about how it seems Facebook is hiding my posts from people. I think about how I’m failing these people who need someone to care about them and to help them. I think about how I am not in a position where I can help everyone who comments with a need. I can help, and I will help, but I cannot do it all by myself.

So far we have 7 families in need. And no families that are giving. And in the daylight, I remember that God does not set us up to fail. I believe that there will be givers, and we all need to have patience while this works out.

I would ask that if you are reading these words you would share them on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else you would like. This only works if people know about it. Also, if you haven’t liked my Facebook page, you can find it here. I am doing 25 days of Christmas songs there right now and will also post updates as they come.

To end this post on a slightly happier note, we took the boys to see Santa. Thanks to Misti Yoder Photography, LLC for the awesome photos.

They were both very excited to get to see Santa.

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Cameron whispered into Santa’s ear what he wanted for Christmas so no one else could here. I’m hoping he asked for a little Christmas magic because we could use some over here right now.

 

Move. Help. Be Brave: Hope for the Holidays 2.0

It’s that time of year again. The Christmas season has officially started, and even though this year we have a couple extra days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it gets here so fast the older I get.

In my last post I talked about doing Hope for the Holidays again this year, and here is it. THE OFFICIAL POST.

Some back story on what we are doing here. I have been part of a community project of strangers helping strangers this time of year since 2011. It was amazing that first year when there was no planning or thinking about it. A stranger said something to another stranger about how hard Christmas was going to be and spontaneous giving began and exploded.

It was a little strange the way it all got started. People started telling their stories about empty bank accounts, losing jobs, parents and children who were sick. There were stories about kids old enough to understand that there just wasn’t any money for presents under the tree. There were stories about kids young enough that they wouldn’t know that there should be presents under the tree. There were stories about the empty corner where the tree should be, but that year there wasn’t going to even be a tree. People told how they struggle every week just to put food on their tables. People told how they have a job that covers the bills, but just the bills, and they weren’t even sure how they would put gas in the car to get to the job. As hard as it was to spill their guts, people shared their honest and hard truths to strangers.

And then there was the amazing people who could help. People with a little extra they could give. People who didn’t have children to buy for that wanted to help others be able to shop for their children. People who had never worried about how they were going to put food on the table and wanted to take that burden away from someone else. People who didn’t have money for gift cards but did have winter coats their children had grown out of and sent them to the mom struggling to buy her child a coat. There were people who the only extra they had was yarn and knitting needles, but they created hats, and scarves and mittens for kids that needed them. People gave with the faith that the stories were true and the hope that they could ease someone else’s burden just a little.

The next couple of years in happened again, with thought and planning, and it was good, too. Two years ago, the blogger who started it all had taken a break from blogging and couldn’t host it, so I took her idea, softened up the language a little, and brought it over here.

Two years ago, Hope for the Holiday’s didn’t help as many people as WANA ever did, but it was so awesome. From my small town in middle America, I was able get help to families as far away as Alaska. It was strangers helping strangers, giving a little bit of hope to those who may be feeling hopeless. I hope it moved everyone involved as much as it did me. You can read the post for the original Hope for the Holidays here.

Last year, WANA was back for its final year and I was struggling emotionally so I stepped back and just let it run over there. This past summer MODG shut her blog down completely. She was done and ready to walk away from her corner of the internet. And while I am sad that she isn’t writing anymore, I’m happy to be hosting Hope again this year.

I think especially after the extremely rough political season we just went through we all could use a little hope this year. Hope that not everyone is selfish or greedy or mean. Hope that there are people out there who care about other people. Hope that people are genuinely good and kind. Hope that people do want to reach out and help others when they can. So over here we are going to MOVE. HELP. and BE BRAVE.

So how is this all going to work?

The only way this works is if those who need some help, tell their stories, and those who can help, give. To ask for help please leave a comment below. Tell your story as much as you can. Be honest. Share what is going on and the specific help you are needing. At the top of your comment put *IN NEED* so it is easily spotted as a need. Tell your story and include your email address so people can contact you to help.

Here is an example of what a need should look like:

*IN NEED*

I’m stay at home mom and my husband has been out of work for several months. He just got a new job, but we are still trying to catch up from the time we were without income. We have two small boys, ages 8 and 6. They love trucks and dinosaurs and are so excited about Christmas, but I just don’t know if there will be anything under the tree. We are stretched so thin right now, sometimes I’m not sure after bills how we are going to put food on the table. We have family that would help, but they can’t afford to take care of us and we feel so guilty having to ask. If someone could just help a little bit it would mean so much to all of us. My email address is myname AT Hotmail DOT com.

That should give you an idea of the information to give. Feel free to give as much information as you are comfortable giving. Be sure to include your email address so people who want to help can contact you. If you leave it the way I did in the example, it is less likely spammers will find you. Once you have posted a need, please be patient.

For those who are wanting to GIVE, please reply to the comment on here so I can see that someone is helping. I will watch for those needs that get missed as more comments come in, but I won’t know who had received help, if you don’t leave a comment below.

Some important additional information. When leaving a comment, you do not have to use your real name. If you would like to be anonymous on this blog, you can be. Please include your real email address in the box for it because only I can see that and it gives me a way to contact you if I need to. Also, please check the box to be noticed of additional comments so you will know when someone has replied to you.

So here we go. This whole thing runs on faith and love.

MOVE. HELP. BE BRAVE.

Hope For the Holidays

December 2011 I was a part of something amazing. A blogger I love, Martini’s or Diaper Genies? (MODG), had gotten some ugly comments on her blog about how rich she must be. She responded with a very sarcastic post about how amazing she was and then asked for everyone to give their financial stats in the comments. The regular comments came, like, “I must be rich too since I eat ham.” But then a very different comment showed up.

A woman named Catherine commented and gave her actual financial situation. She and her husband were losing their jobs. They didn’t know how they were going to pay the bills let alone have anything under their tree for their young child to open Christmas morning.

And just like that hearts were softened and lives were changed.

MODG and her family helped Catherine, even though she wasn’t actually asking for help. It felt good. It felt right. So MODG came back to her blog and shared it with her readers and a movement happened. She called it WANA (We Are Not Assholes). She asked her readers to be honest and open. If you had a need, share it and let us help you. If you could help someone, comment on their need.

It was amazing. It exploded. So many people needed help and wanted to help that I can’t even share that blog post with you because it crashed the system and is lost forever.

People shared their stories. They shared their illnesses and job losses. They shared their fears of not knowing how they were going to feed their families or even put gas in their cars to get to their jobs that barely paid the bills. They shared their heartbreak that Christmas morning at their house Santa Claus wouldn’t be coming. They shared how their kids were old enough to understand how hard times were or young enough not to know there weren’t any presents where there should have been.

But if you are a mom or dad, you know that it doesn’t matter if your kids won’t know or will understand. You will know. And your heart will break. You will feel like you failed at something big.

Of course, Christmas is about so much more than presents under the tree. But that empty tree, or empty spot in the corner where the tree should have been but you couldn’t even afford one is just a glaring reminder that you failed your family.

It was a truly magically thing to be a part of, and I will never forget that Christmas.

WANA continued for the next two years. You can read MODG’s post for 2012 here.

In February 2014, MODG came to her readers again and told us she had to step back. As a mom, she just couldn’t blog anymore. It was too much. And as a mom, I completely understand where she was coming from. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be criticized for every choice you make for your kids by strangers.

Last week, MODG posted on her Facebook page that she still was unable to get back to the blog but wanted to have a place for WANA to continue. She made a post for it on Facebook. I clicked the button to get notifications whenever anyone posted on it.

And then I waited to see what would happen.

Later that afternoon someone finally posted on it. They had a need but would prefer private messages. And that’s when I realized this wasn’t going to work. When you post on ANYTHING on Facebook it shows up on the timeline of ALL your friends. It is hard enough to ask for help from strangers. How much harder when all your friends and family are going to see you asking for help?

I felt moved. I have this little place on the Internet that I can do whatever I want with. I felt called. I sent MODG an email sharing my thoughts with her and asking if I could run WANA through my blog. It felt so right.

And then I waited.

It’s been a week since she put the post on Facebook and I haven’t heard back from her. The last time I looked there were 15 comments on her post and no signs that anyone was helping fill those needs.

I completely understand that. Someone says they need help but can’t share that need in a public forum with all their personal information attached to it. And if you don’t know what the need is, how do you know if you can help? Do you send them a message and have them tell you their story? What if you can’t help then? “Sorry you just spilled your guts to me, but that’s not a need I can fill.” And then everyone feels bad?

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I have a deep faith. If you’ve been reading recently, you know I’ve been doing things recently that I feel God has called me to do even (or especially) that I don’t understand. This is one of those times. Maybe I can’t help everyone that has a need, but I can share my little piece of the Internet to connect people.

Because I never heard back from MODG, I don’t feel like I can use the term WANA. I’m calling this Hope For the Holidays. Because that’s what we are going to do here.

We all need hope, and when times are tough it’s really hard to find hope.

If times are tough for you and your family, I’m asking that you share your story with us here. Let us give you hope that things will get better and that people do care about you.

If times are good for you and your family, I’m asking that you help give hope to those who need it.

Giving always makes you feel good. And this time of year, more people are in the giving spirit. And there are great charities to give to. (We personally love Salvation Army and will be taking the boys to ring bells for them this year.)

As great as giving to a charity to help random people is, giving to a specific person to fill a specific need is amazing.

This is all going on faith. I have faith that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I have faith that people needing help will find this post. I have faith that people able to give help with find this post and be called to help where they can.

Some tips on making this work:

-When you post a comment, you do not have to use your full name (or even your real name) if you are wanting to remain anonymous.

-If you leave an email address so people can contact you, please leave it as name AT place DOT com so spammers are less likely to find you

-Please leave a real email address in the box for it when you comment. I am the only one who can see it and that way I will be able to contact you if I need to

-And I especially need you guys to share this post on social media. The only way for this to be successful is for people to know about it

Choose hope this holiday season. Let’s share Hope For the Holidays (no matter which ones you celebrate).

I choose hope.

**update**

It has been pointed out to me that my instructions may not be clear enough if you weren’t a part of the original movement. So I would like to clarify.

If you have a need:

Please share your story. Share as much as you feel comfortable with. This is important. People want to connect with you. Your story will touch hearts. Give us specific needs we can help with. It is also helpful if you leave your email address in your comment so people have a way to reach you.

If you can fill a need:

Please reply to the comment of the person you are wanting to help so we will know if the need has been met. It is then up to you and the person you are helping to connect so you can help them. If I need to be a go between, I can be, but it will be much simpler if you connect with each other.

When you leave a comment, the is a box to check if you want to get an email when there are new comments. I would suggest clicking this box so you will know when someone replies to you.

The best part of Hope For the Holidays and the only way it works is for us to connect with each other. Real people helping real people.

Thank you to everyone working to make this a hope filled holiday season.