The best gifts of all...
Holiday gifts come in all sizes, shapes and colors. Husbands, wives, best friends often receive gifts that are over-the-top. In today's challenging times, many of us want to be sure the gift we give is one of substance and meaning.
A woman who is pleased to be tending her own shop, thanks to a CWS supported microcredit program.
Photo: Pakistan, CWS
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
by Lesley Crosson/CWS
Holiday gifts come in all sizes, shapes and colors.
Husbands, wives, best friends often receive gifts that are over-the-top and crammed full of delightful indulgence. Then there are those we give the eminently practical gifts that so reflect their approach to life. The people who make us laugh often get gifted with funny offerings -- or at least gifts we thought were clever at the checkout counter.
There also is the gift of time, precious to people navigating an increasingly fast-paced world, and the gift of presence to those people whose circles of friendship may be contracting as they age.
The possibilities are endless.
The common thread in all manner of gift giving is the sentiment. We give because we want the recipients to know that we care. And, our gifts are received in that spirit. They are precious and they are welcomed, not just at holiday time but whenever we choose to share them.
Arguably, though, the most precious of all the gifts we give are the ones that do double duty; the gifts that honor the recipient and also provide a very real lifeline for someone struggling to keep their head above water.
Those are the kinds of gifts that people are finding in the Church World Service "Best Gift Catalog."
It could be a $50 gift in someone's honor that helps women in a developing country learn to read, or a gift that helps her establish a small store or jumpstart a tailoring business. An even larger gift could give the person in whose name it is donated the satisfaction of knowing that children who may have been attending classes under a tree now will have a school building with desks, books and school supplies. And if you're feeling particularly clever, you might just gift someone with a goat that will provide high-protein milk for a needy family to drink and sell.
People give in entirely different ways. Read the story of Ellenor Simmons, who has been giving her time and talent to help speed the recovery from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Look around you at the people -- young and old -- right in your congregation who regularly help assemble CWS Kits or who participate in CROP Hunger Walks to raise money for hunger-fighting programs in your community and around the world.
Looking further, refugees from the Thailand-Burma border, as they continue their decades-long quest for safety, peace and justice, have given us the gift of their stories in the book "Nine Thousand Nights: Refugees from Burma, A Peoples’ Scrapbook."
Your own gift of caring could be the decision to make yours one of the thousands of congregations that co-sponsor refugee families from all the corners of the world where conflict or persecution are forcing people to run for their lives.
And, when gifts take the form of money, those dollars can translate into help for people struck by disasters or people living in poverty.
We are thankful to report that Church World Service supporters are typically generous in their gift giving, not just at holiday time but throughout the year, as is evidenced by the support generated each year through CWS Blankets+ mission giving.
The healthcare needs of Pakistanis affected by this year's devastating floods are being ameliorated in part by mobile health units supported by donations you send to Church World Service. In the face of increased cases of dengue fever, deaths from poor infrastructure and an over-burdened health system, those health units, the blankets and the tools for rebuilding represent a profound gift of hope for the people of Pakistan.
Not everyone can give time, and in today's uncertain economy, many of us want to be sure the gift we give is one of substance and meaning. One solution to the dilemma of what to give is to select from the "Best Gift Catalog." It is compiled with love and designed to spur the imaginations of those of us looking for meaningful, substantial ways to celebrate giving and sharing in a manner that honors the recipient and the true spirit of this holy season.
There are a wealth of possibilities. The challenge is to find the true gift in your giving -- to discover the meaning that transcends mere gesture and makes yours the best gift of all.