I consider myself a very fortunate person. I have been on the receiving end of many wonderful gifts. Some of the best have been support when I needed it and unconditional love that I knew that I could count on at any time.
The most precious of those gifts came from people who gave them because they understood the need. They came with no strings attached and with no thought of anything in return. They might accept a simple thanks but they did not even need that. Their thanks actually came from seeing what their gift achieved.
One of the most critical gifts in our lives came from someone whose identity we never learned. We were trying very hard to get ready for our cattle dispersal in 1982. Ten years of hard work and 200 head of cattle were going to go up for auction. It would be over in a few hours of a Saturday afternoon. The best efforts of the two men I hired and the big tractors and equipment on our farm could not make any progress preparing our barn and corrals around it with six weeks of rain turning everything outside the barn to a sea of mud.
Just when my wife and I were about to give up hope, almost every able-bodied man in the area of our little community of Tay Creek showed up with shovels early one Monday morning. They worked in conditions that you could not pay people to work in for as many hours as they could spare from their own chores. One friend who worked in the city even took time off. They did it for a couple of weeks. No one would accept pay and we never found out the organizer but we will always be in debt to those who helped us make the move from the farm to a different life.
We have always tried to help others to the best of our ability. I have found some of the greatest gifts are ones where no names are involved. I still remember the day in Salem, Virginia, well over twenty years ago. I cannot even remember why I was there, but I have always suspected that I was there for a purpose even if I did not know it. A man walked up to me with a starter motor wrapped up in a towel. He told me that he was on the way to a new life with his family. He said they barely had enough money for food and gas with 1,000 miles to go. His starter motor died and he needed some money to buy a rebuilt one. Maybe it was the grease on his hands or the sincerity of his plea, but I did not even question him. I pulled out my wallet and gave him the $60 in cash that I had. I did not ask his name and when he asked for mine so he could pay me back, I told him that was unnecessary and my thanks would be knowing he got closer to his new life.
I recently just heard the opposite of my two stories. Some adults were rushing to be a part of a young child's life. They were late in getting presents so when they heard the child had asked Santa for certain presents, they had them shipped direct from Amazon to the child's home where they were going to be a couple of days after Christmas. The presents got wrapped upon arrival and with no instructions from the givers the presents ended up under the tree. In the excitement of Christmas morning those presents confirmed the dream of a child who upon seeing exactly what was asked from Santa just days before concluded that Santa had to be real especially since his beard and mustache were also real.
Upon hearing their presents had been opened before their arrival and attributed to Santa, the gift givers were livid. They decided to punish the child. They arrived with an armful of gifts but none for the child. The child later asked the mother what bad behavior had made the grandparents forget to bring a present. The mother had already wrapped another present to try to limit the damage.
Giving should make us feel good because we are helping someone meet a need that they might not be able to meet on their own. It is hard not to look at the child's situation and wonder why the supposed adults could not celebrate over fulfilling the true wish of the child which was to know that Santa was real. To give a gift to a child that affirms all the magic of the season has to be a wonderful Christmas gift and perhaps one that would happen only once in a lifetime. You do not need recognition for a gift like that because it should make you feel warm all the way down to your toes.
Everyone needs some unconditional love in their life and a few magical gifts where the givers remain anonymous. As this holiday season slides into the mists, I hope we can all remember that giving is not about getting recognition for giving the gift.
If we give to make someone else happy, then there is a good chance we will feel good about what we have done. If we give only because we feel pressured to give by the season, then perhaps we are giving for the wrong reasons even if the presents turn out to be right ones.