Look for the need this Christmas

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Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

What to buy this Christmas? Where’s the need … This year we’re exchanging donations to charity instead of gifts with another family. There are so many good initiatives to support and we choose to buy a Caritas global gift for our friends.

This is like a gift card directed to a developing community, so it can receive whatever it needs to improve education, agriculture, access to water, health care, or emergency aid.

We figure it’s a small way to meet the needs of so many who don’t enjoy the same material riches we do.

And it’s a big way to teach our children (we have 12 young children between the two families) to be grateful for all they have, materially and immaterially, and to help people who go without – especially at Christmas.

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop could never see a need without doing something about it, and I’ve found that Christian imperative overwhelming at times, but only because I have tended to over-think it.

It doesn’t mean trying to do several things a day for all the different needs we see in our families, our various communities and the wider world.

That would be a harmful distraction from the often simple but important responsibilities God sets before me each day. No, ‘Never seeing a need without doing something about it’ just means it’s best to do something, no matter how small for the need we notice at the moment.

It means being docile to the Holy Spirit, being connected enough with God’s will so that we notice when we should do something and what we should do to meet a specific need. And we don’t have to look far to find people in need.

They are in our own street and families just as much as they are all over the world and in remote parts of Australia.

In doing my Christmas shopping this year and making plans for the holidays, I’m trying to think less in terms of ‘what to buy’, but ‘what is this person’s need that I can do something about? (Even if it’s a very small thing.)

Sometimes it will mean buying something for someone, or it might mean doing something else. In this case it was a no-brainer. My friend texted me with her suggestion, and I agreed it was a good idea.

That’s not going to work for everyone we want to give gifts to this Christmas, but it works for them and us.

It’s not always so easy. What many of our family members, in particular, want this Advent and Christmas season is our time.

The best-selling book by Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages, details in simple but useful terms how everyone has their specific means by which they are able to feel loved.

The five ways he mentions are by receiving quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, and physical touch. Each of us tends towards needing more of one or two of these in order to feel appreciated and loved.

The need to receive a physical gift can be the easiest ‘love need’ to meet. It can require a lot more effort to afford a loved one the quality time they need from us, certainly more than giving our credit card details to a local store or our favourite charity.

It’s an area where I constantly struggle, because there are usually choices to be made between two or more good options or different people who would appreciate my making time for them, but it’s a nice problem to have and means we are very blessed.

Of course, over all these gifts, whatever the form, we add prayer that God will multiply whatever efforts we make to appreciate and meet the needs of our friends, family members and everyone we care about this Christmas.