One of the simplest ways to reach out to your community is start with what you are already doing. Generosity doesn’t have to be a grand sweeping gesture. Generosity, at its core, is simple saying: This is what I have, do you need some? It’s that willingness to make it stretch, the open hand that breaks off a piece and offers it to another.
When it comes to donating I tend to think of the basics. If someone is hungry my concern is feeding him or her, I don’t really worry about making it pretty. But if I’m feeding the people I love, I take that time. I wondered what it would look like if I took that same care and effort on something I was planning to give away. A couple of years ago I did just that, getting together with friends and family to make really fancy Christmas cookies that weren’t for us. It turned out to be such a good thing that we’ve done it ever since.
Cookies as ministry
Last year we used the ovens in the church kitchen to bake 12 dozen sugar cookies. Then we spent a delightful Saturday afternoon icing snowmen and angels, Christmas trees and reindeer. We had Christmas music playing and lots of hot chocolate. It was a wonderful day. When it was all finished we took the cookies to our local drop in center for homeless teens. As we dropped them off I wondered, “When was the last time someone did something special for one of these kids?”
We’ve made cookies for a women’s shelter and a men’s halfway house. They are always very well received and they’re not hard for me to do, I was baking cookies anyway. The groceries to make a few dozen cookies cost less than $20 and the time it takes is no hardship because I like making cookies, it’s fun. (Plus, this way I get the fun of making more cookies than our small family could eat.)
It is impossible to overestimate the power of a personal touch in the lives of people who feel forgotten. I confess that there have been times when I have turned away from the homeless while walking along a busy downtown street. The truth is that I don’t want to see them. I don’t like being reminded that there are people who have so little and people in other countries who have even less. The cookies are one way to turn back toward them instead of turning away. A cookie isn’t going to change the world, but it can change someone’s day. It’s a reminder that Christmas is for them too.
Stretch what you’re already doing
If you’re not much of baker, just take a look at what it is that you’re already doing. Are you hanging Christmas lights? Find someone else who needs help hanging his or her lights. Are you shopping for gifts for your kids? Put an extra toy in your cart and find somewhere to give it away. Ask God to show you how you can take what you are already doing and stretch it a little further. What you have might not seem like much, but God is really good at taking our little offering and doing something spectacular with it.
At church this past Sunday our pastor talked a little about generosity. He said that he often hears people say that if they had more money they’d be generous and his answer to them is, “No you wouldn’t. Generosity has nothing to do with your money.” He’s right. Generosity has nothing to do with what you can afford; generosity it all about what you make room for.
In my family we make room by rolling out a few extra cookies and decorating them as if we were planning to keep them. It may look different in your family but the heart of it is the same. Generosity is not about the extra, the leftovers, or surplus. Generosity happens when I say, “I was going to have this, I was planning to spend it on me, but here, I want you to have it instead.” Generosity comes out of our own comfort, our willingness to make a little room. Start with what you have in your hands and make a little extra. Ask God to use it and you’ll be amazed at what He does.
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