Finding joy in giving

By Rita Buettner

One day I was making dinner when I ran out of paper towels. We store them in the basement, which is just fine until raw chicken juice is dripping from your hands and you’re staring at a stripped cardboard tube.

“Know what I’m putting on my Christmas list this year?” I said to our younger son. “Paper towels.”

His eyes lit up.

“Close your eyes, Mama,” he said.

Minutes later I heard our little boy saying, “Ho, ho, ho.” I opened my eyes and saw him running out of the kitchen – leaving a new roll of paper towels behind him.

Now, when I run out of paper towels, all I have to do is wait until our children are in earshot.

“Dear Santa,” I say out loud. Even before I can finish my imaginary letter to the North Pole, the paper  towels appear.

It’s a simple request, and our son loves climbing into his imaginary sleigh to bring me what I need. He runs away happy – and looking forward to the next time he can help.

Now, you could argue that our children ought to help. It is true that I am The Mother. I can demand that they help and expect them to follow through. Still, without our game, they wouldn’t do it as quickly, with such excitement, and with a deep-throated “ho, ho, ho.”

It’s giving with that enthusiasm – if not a “ho, ho, ho” – that I’m hoping to inspire in their hearts and, when I stop to consider, also in mine. What I pray that our children will discover, and what I imagine many of us try to cultivate more deeply in ourselves, is that true joy of giving.

So often we make sacrifices out of obligation or even a sense of guilt. When we do, our contributions make a difference, but they don’t always make us want to give again or do even more the next time.

“God loves a cheerful giver,” St. Paul told the Corinthians. Imagine how many lives we can touch through our actions and how much giving we might inspire when we make those sacrifices with a truly happy heart.

Giving is not always easy, as our Father in heaven shows us. When He sends his Son to be born in a stable, he knows well that Jesus will suffer and die for our sins before he rises again. But even though God is aware of the agony his Son will experience before the Resurrection, he fills the sky that night with angels heralding the birth. The heavens rejoice.

This Advent we will be asked to help many in need within our communities and around the world. We’ll encounter many people who need our prayers, financial support, maybe even our time. Perhaps this season when we hear those requests – even from those within our own homes – we can slip into our imaginary Santa sleighs with compassion and excitement.

By giving with the simple and genuine joy of a child, maybe we’ll find that our hearts are better prepared to welcome that infant to Bethlehem  at Christmas.

Ho, ho, ho. 

Read more commentary here and read Rita Buettner’s “Open Window” blog here.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.