Every December church talks and tv specials focus on “The Spirit of Christmas,” and people talk about how we’ve lost this spirit and how Christmas has become too commercialized. Along with the pessimistic chatter come inspirational stories of charity and faith to remind us that there is good in the world and that we should take this time to stop and seek it. Every year I hear this, but I think this year is the first year I understand it.
These past few weeks my apartment has been the headquarters for a sub-for-Santa project which has turned my thoughts to charity. While I was working on a paper, I was often interrupted by the knock at the door which meant another donation for these two needy families. Smiles were on the faces of the donators and my roommates who accepted the donations. At one point my roommate came into the room, overcome with gratitude because someone had donated a $30 dollar jacket. I admire the time and money spent on this project and I’m sure that the families will be grateful come Christmas morning. Moreover, this generous spirit is greatly needed, but I think we run into a problem when charity is measured by the amount of gifts we give.
When I say charity, I mean the charity that Moroni writes about in the Book of Mormon:
And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh not evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things…charity is the love of Christ, and it endureth forever. (Moroni 7:45, 47)
Although I cannot speak for the other donators, I found myself troubled because I thought I had done something good and was ready to turn back to my paper and the other cares in my life. But as I thought about it more, I realized the act of buying a toy for a little boy wasn’t charity. Did I do something good? Yes, but I could buy a thousand toys for a thousand boys and still not be charitable. I am not discouraging or critiquing the project I participated in, but rather, I’m asking that we each take time to consider charity and what it means to us. For me, it is taking the time and thought to care for another human being. Charity shouldn’t stop with a donation, but should extend to the way I treat my roommates, family, co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers I pass on the street. Charity is all the times I put aside my own agenda to help another person. This kind of charity can happen all year round. So while this season brings many beautiful opportunities to help out those who aren’t as fortunate as us, I hope that we won’t forget the little acts of service we can do all year round.