Friday, December 5, 2008

The Greatest Charity Box of All

Last time I blogged about being the recipient of a charity box during the Christmas season. Today I’d like to blog about being on the other side of that equation.

Several years before the ‘cannons and charity boxes’ affair, our family knew of a family that was struggling financially, so we and another family decided to buy presents for all and augment their simple Christmas dinner. We spent a lot of time and dipped into our own Christmas budget, but we felt this would be a better Christmas experience for the children than finding a whiz-bang toy under the tree.

We all rode together to deliver it, and we sat in the car with the lights out on the dark, rural road, as the oldest child deposited the box on the doorstep, rang the doorbell and ran. As soon as he was in the car, we sped off, laughing and joyful as we pictured the family’s Christmas day.

Several weeks later, quite by accident, I learned that the simple Christmas dinner I imagined for this family was actually a feast with an exceptionally expensive cut of meat as the main course. It was an ethnic tradition that I’m sure they sacrificed to maintain, but at the time all I could think of was the time and money I spent on a family that ate a whole lot better on Christmas day than we did, and the sweet feelings I had about the experience turned sour.

That was a lot of years ago, and I hadn’t even thought about it until last week when a friend told about a similar experience. I realized as I remembered it, that time, my charity box experience, and King Benjamin have all worked together to restore the sweetness to the memory.

For I know now, first of all, that this offering really wasn’t to the needy family. Rather, this offering was to the Savior. It was our Christmas gift to him. I should have realized that, then.

Secondly, a gift, by definition, is no longer yours once it’s given away. And certainly, if it’s a free-will offering and hasn’t been asked for, it’s out of order for the giver to set conditions after the fact.

This family hadn’t asked for help. They probably felt they had Christmas in hand, and maybe they reacted to our charity box just as I had a few years later when I found one on my doorstep.
But, even if they had asked for help, King Benjamin has some great advice:

…ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain…
Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent…

That’s from the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 4:14-24. King Benjamin goes on to ask if we are not all beggars and dependent upon the goodness of God.

Indeed we are, and we celebrate each December 25th the greatest charity box of all. Whether we are deserving or not, whether we are thankful or not, it sits at our doorstep, ready to be opened.

Return to the Neighborhood

1 comment:

Monique said...

What a great reminder of the spirit of giving and receiving for this wonderful season. Thank you for sharing it with us.