Monday, December 27, 2010

The Returned Gift

Every yearat Christmas, I get some lemons. I think we all do. And it's not that I can't see the forest for the trees. I really do appreciate the sentiment, even if it's a sweater that could fit two of me. Or if it's a tool set that I'll never be able to use myself, only ask my husband, "Honey can you take my tools and fix that thingamajig?"

I really hate to return gifts, though. I feel like I should make the best use of them, even if they seem useless to me at first. Maybe I can use it as a decoration? Maybe I can make it work somehow? Maybe, if nothing else, I can donate it to charity.

Giving things away to charity feels good; I can't deny it. I clear out some space in my house, and (hopefully) I'm giving some items away that can benefit someone else. Maybe a mother who can't afford a new carseat can buy the one I only used for a short while. Maybe a little girl whose parents can't afford Toys 'R Us will get the Littlest Pet Shop toys that Peppermint Patty has outgrown.

Yet at the same time, I feel guilty. Why am I giving away only the things I no longer want? I often wonder, if these things aren't good enough for ME, why should I assume that they're good enough for someone else? Is it conceited to assume that my cast-offs are someone else's treasures?

I do love to give things though: I give gifts, I give my time, I give my talent. I love to feel needed. Admittedly, this type of giving is, at its core, selfish. I give because I get back. What I get back is that warm fuzzy feeling that I've helped someone. If I get a "thank-you" that is just the cherry on top of the sundae. And the more I give, the more I want to give. It's quite contagious, I tell ya.

Every year I am bombarded with non-profit groups asking for money. The emails crowd my inbox and the pieces of direct mail pile up in my mailbox. There is no shortage of people who need funds to continue their research, their rescue efforts, and their relief. St. Judes. Haiti. Habitat for Humanity. PBS. My church. Breast Cancer. Disabled Veterans of America. Each one is no more or less deserving than the last, but I only have so much money to give away. If I give to every worthy charity, then I'll have nothing left.

One need that never leaves my memory is that of Pastor Moses and his school in Kenya. I wrote a post about his village and my lackluster attempts to help them educate their students and build their church. This year I decided to send some more money to them, just $100. I didn't know how far it would go or how many lives it would touch. But I knew that every penny would go to help a real, live person. None would be funneled off to pay for advertising costs or an office lease or an administrator's salary.

But a funny thing happened when I went to send the money. I used MoneyGram online, choosing to send the money directly from my bank account. However, the transfer took longer than I'd expected it to take. I knew Pastor Moses was waiting for the money to use for a Christmas Party for the families of the students from Neema House of Mercy school. I didn't want to keep him waiting longer than he had to. Finally, I decided to just send them another $100 directly from my debit card, so that the transfer would be instant. I called MoneyGram to try to cancel the first payment, but I couldn't. So, Pastor Moses ended up getting $200 from me this year. At first I stressed out about it, thinking that I'd given more money than I'd planned and how would I juggle the budget for that? Then I realized, it will work out. It always does. Giving in this way will not be a burden, it will be a blessing. It always is.

Those families in Kenya, those children at Neema, they don't get assistance from their government, they don't get help from other churches, they don't get aid from the American Red Cross or the United Nations. They just help themselves. If I can be a small part of that, if I am making a difference to that group of people on the other side of the world, then they are giving me more than I could ever give them. It changes me. It restores my hope for humanity. It makes me believe that even though I am just one person, I can affect change.

I'm not curing cancer. I'm not ending world hunger. I'm not solving illiteracy. But I'm helping to build a village.

This time of year is filled with reasons to give and people who need a gift. I've been contacted by a few people who'd like to donate to Neema House of Mercy school in Migori, Kenya. If you would like to share your gifts with them, I've set up a Paypal "donate" button over there on my sidebar. This gift might not be tax-deductible. I can't give you a receipt. It's not your typical non-profit organization. I can't promise any kind of financial benefit that you may reap from this donation. Neema is just a rural school in Kenya, teaching children to read and write, feeding them when they have little else to eat, clothing them when they have nothing else to wear, and housing them when they have no where else to go. If you would like to donate to Neema, you may send funds to my paypal account - you'll just have to trust me that I'm going to send the money. If you can't send money, you can send a letter to them - I will be happy to give you the address if you email me or leave a comment. If you can't afford a stamp, just pray for them. But whatever kind of gift you can give, know that your gift will be returned to you indeed.*

Texan Mama

*Just to be absolutely clear, when I say, "your gift will be returned to you" I mean that in the metaphorical sense. I'm not actually going to send you your money back after you've donated it to the Neema House of Mercy school. Just felt like I needed to put that little disclaimer in there!


Jennifer said...

Awesome. I think that is great.

Gigi said...

That is the best Christmas present EVER!!

Frogs in my formula said...

We donated toys and clothing to a local women's homeless shelter. I want my son to understand there are people who are less fortunate and that helping out can be a year-long gift.

There are so many important causes. It's hard to know to whom to give.

Great post.

leslie said...

I am totally with you on the "castoffs" we donate to charity. I mean, I hope they are treasure to someone, but sometimes I still feel guilty.

As for your "double donation" to Pasor Moses, I am a firm believer that blessings will come back to you ten-fold!

McMommy said...

I've been down with some sort of terrible cold/flu/death wish. But today I'm feeling better and found this post in my it. Clicking the donate button now!

Bridgett said...

Goodness. Don't feel guilty about things you give to charities that resell them. As someone who frequents charity and resale shops, it is a total score to find something really good and intact--snowsuits, toys, kids clothes, both girls' sleeping bags, and so on. And you aren't forcing folks to take them--they're buying secondhand. Good thrift shoppers (like my grandmother was--8 kids on one salary and everything was used and repurposed) pass up what is rubbish and know what they're looking for.