The Feeling May Become Permanent

Newscaster Paul Harvey once told about a woman who called the Butterball Turkey Company and said that she had a turkey that had been in her freezer for 23 years. She asked if it was still any good. She was told that if her freezer was at least zero degrees Fahrenheit, then the turkey was probably safe enough to eat. But they wouldn’t recommend that she eat it. The flavor would have deteriorated considerably. She said, “That’s what we thought. I guess we’ll just give it to the church.”

I suppose there are many reasons we choose to give. But people who enjoy sharing with others the most do not share simply because they have a need to get rid of something. Those who find the greatest joy from giving have learned to give from a deeper place; they give from their hearts. 

Santa Claus is becoming a universal symbol of giving. Millions of children write letters to Santa each year in hopes that they won’t be forgotten during his annual giving spree. Did you know that the US Post Office actually found ways to answer those letters to Santa Claus? They used to just stick them in the so-called dead letter box. But now some cities have programs that allow people to sort through these hand-written pleas, hopes and wishes and become “Santas” to others in need. They choose a letter and respond however they can. Most anyone can play Santa.

One letter that might have been discarded a few years ago, but was picked up by a volunteer Santa Claus, came from a boy named Donny. He wrote that he wanted a bike for Christmas and “some food and what I really need is love.”

Another volunteer Santa latched onto a letter from a young mother who wrote, “I lost my job…and I cannot afford to give my two children the things they need for the winter months.” That generous spirit helped with some necessities for the children.

“I like to go to their home on Christmas Eve,” one joyful Santa said. One year he bought presents for four children and a ham for their mother. Then he added this poignant observation: “The feeling you get is just incredible.”

I admit it – I don’t always get that feeling when I give. But then I don’t always give out of untainted motivations. Sometimes I give from other places. Sometimes I give out of social obligation or out of guilt. Or I give with an expectation for receiving back. But I give best when I give from that deeper place; when I give simply, freely and generously, and sometimes for no particular reason. I give best when I give from my heart.

And isn’t it true? Opportunities to give from the heart are not limited to a particular holiday season or cultural tradition. Whether we give food, money, an hour of time or a hug, we can give it sincerely and joyously.

But let me offer a word of caution. If you choose to give from your heart, be careful. The most incredible feeling might just overwhelm you. And if you continue in this behavior, that feeling may become permanent.

And so, we pray: Lord, help me to give from the heart so much that it becomes a permanent part of my life. Amen.

Grace and Peace

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