The Greatest Differentiating Value
Christmas is known as a time for giving and sharing. We give gifts. We share meals, songs, and laughter with family and friends. It’s a joyful time, with hopefully lots of love.
But not everyone experiences a time of joy and love. Relationships are strained, and emotions run hot. If there is an exchange of gifts, it’s neither positive nor pleasant. Yes, there may be some fake smiles, but in reality they can’t wait for it to be over.
Then there are those who are alone and forgotten. They have no family (that will acknowledge them). They have little to give, and most days rely on the generosity of others just to stay alive.
In all three cases, the appearance of charity was practiced. Or it may have simply been the fulfillment of an obligation, or worse driven by guilt.
Charity means a kindly and lenient attitude; an activity or gift that benefits others.
For example, we demonstrate charity when we speak kindly to a stranger who appears lost, asking them “Can I help you?” We also show charity when we give a couple of dollars to the homeless person on the street corner.
Here’s the key: it’s our choice to display charity at a particular moment in time. And it’s our choice in how we choose to display it.
Choosing to be Charitable
When we exhibit charity, we are showing that we’re thinking about others over ourselves. Consider the following few examples in how we can display charity:
- Donate blood that will benefit someone you’ll never meet.
- Drop off cans of food at your local food pantry.
- Organize a group of people to pick up the trash along a section of road.
- Skip lunch to help a co-worker finish an important assignment that’s due right away.
- Visit a neighbor or co-worker in the hospital, even if it means missing a favorite game.
- Spend time listening to a widow or widower tell you their story.
- Smile at the person next to you in an elevator or on a bus or subway. It might be the only smile they receive today.
It’s up to us to choose when, how, and to whom we want to be charitable.
Oddly, kindness shown to a stranger is called charity. But with family and friends it’s referred to as love (i.e. think about the cards you’ve received signed “with love”).
Charity vs. Love
On this subject, a commonly referenced Bible verse, from the original King James Version, is:
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” — 1 Corinthians 13:13
Interestingly, most other translations use the word “love” here instead of charity. Is there a difference? When we’re being formal we say charity. But when casual we use the term love.
Either way, practicing love – or charity – is important. And not just at Christmas time. This is a value that can make a difference all year long. In fact, it just might be the greatest differentiating value ever.