Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Serving Season

Serving food, serving drinks, serving the hungry in soup kitchens, and serving our neighbors are regular hallmarks of the "extreme season." All around the church and community people are lining up volunteers and asking for donations of money,  gift cards, time, and patience. At home, this may begin to take a toll if your heart is bigger than your available hours or dollars. I remember a lot of years where I was just plain mad all through the holidays because I felt like a failure on every front - everyone needed more from me than I had to give. I used to think this was because I was a single parent on a tight budget but I have since learned that almost everyone feels this way at some point during the holidays. Here are a few things I figured out along the way:
  • Start by deciding how much money you will give ahead of time and then, as a family, DECIDE where you'll give it. Some families pick one thing and stick with it year after year but others like to mix it up and give to a lot of places. Your family members may not all agree so you may have to divide the budgeted funds between several causes. That discussion will be almost as rewarding as the giving. Depending on the ages and temperaments of your children there may be spirited debates over the merits of buying dog food for the animal shelter or toys for children whose parents are in prison. People may get passionate but that's OK - it's for a good cause!
  • Choose ONE actual hands on service project. Giving money is very helpful to recipients but less valuable to your children who really won't fully grasp the giving of money until they have earned some themselves. If your children are very small, substitute for a Meals-On-Wheels driver and take them along. Take older kids to wrap gifts at Blue Santa, help an elderly neighbor put up a tree or some lights, or serve dinner  at a soup kitchen. Wherever you serve, serve together.
  • Find a way to participate at church. Welcome guests, make cookies for the choir members who will sing multiple services on Christmas Eve, help carry all those poinsettias into the church - or offer to deliver them to shut-ins after the Christmas Day services. Check to see if someone could use a ride to church. Sing in the choir or play in the orchestra. Even offer to stay and lock up the building after the last service! Take some of your baking to a family who has had health issues or recently lost a loved one. Serving at church helps reinforce for your kids that it's really all about THE BABY.
  • Don't do things you, or your family, resent. If traveling to see relatives is more chore than joy - stay home! Go another time when you can enjoy it more.  Hate sending Christmas cards but want to stay in touch? Send a New Year's letter or a valentine or write a generic letter that can be sent with birthday cards.
I think it's easy to feel like you're in a rubber raft about to go over a waterfall as the holidays approach but try not to lose sight of the countless blessings in your life and the baby in the manger.  Holding those things at the center can help you float a little more gently down the holiday river.

No comments: