Ordinarily our Christmas season does not bring to mind the story in Matthew (14:16-21), of the loaves and fishes. To me the two are linked in my heart forever. For several years I had the privilege to coordinate 35 churches for Loaves and Fishes Too at the Dorothy Day Center in downtown St Paul. Each day a different church would arrive with the supplies and volunteers to prepare an evening meal for three hundred guests, most of whom lived on the street or were living in homeless shelters. In the traditional Christmas story Epiphany comes with the arrival of the Three Wise Ones bringing exotic gifts for the New King. Of course, at Christmas time each church not only served the meal but arrived with gifts as well for their guests, not so exotic but needed things like hats, mittens, socks and toiletries.
The second year I coordinated we worked hard as a staff to enhance each volunteer's experience to see beyond the generous charity they offered to understand that the giving was a gift to each person who was fortunate enough to be the giver and volunteer. In the fall before the Christmas season an idea was hatched and shared with many of the churches who embraced the idea and made it a reality. We would give the “Gift of Giving” to those guests of ours so that they could experience what we experienced every evening. Churches were invited to be involved in multiple ways – donations were collected to build a store of simple gifts from which our guests could choose and send to their family and friends. Volunteers signed up to person the store assisting guests in choosing, wrapping, and getting “UPS ready” the packages, money was donated for materials and postage. Guests were given a shopping time slot and the only thing the guests needed was up to three addresses for up to three gifts.
It was a huge success as hundreds of guests were able to send gifts to family and friends. Packages were mailed all over the United States, to Europe, Africa, Central, and South America. I was honored, and as I said, privileged to be a part of the “Gift of Giving." It had a dimension rarely seen in charity, the dimension of dignity and the partnership in the joy of giving.
Help me to be a “wise one” during this season of giving. Show me the ways I can give, not exotic gifts, but share the gifts of the spirit you have given me with all those I travel with in this most blessed time – the Christmas Season.
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