A few years ago, I started receiving some gifts that came in envelopes but weren’t cash, weren’t gift cards, and they weren’t homemade coupons for washing my car the following summer (though those in particular are always encouraged.) These gifts weren’t even for me.
The gifts in these envelopes were given to me by people who had helped others in need, but done it in my name. The envelope contained a simple certificate that honored me as the reason the gift was initiated.
OK, true confessions. I will admit when this started I felt somewhat cheated. I mean, I’m glad someone somewhere got some help, but where was my gift? My possessions? The things that were going to continue to get me ahead in the world? At least throw a gift card for me in with this gift for someone else, right? Sort of a hybrid gift? Not very generous thoughts, I know, but I think that is the default for a lot of us.
I got married last year, and with all the fun and celebration there came the very real task of consolidating two people’s earthly possessions which, for my part, took about as much planning as the wedding did. And while I didn’t make the connection immediately, as I sorted through my stuff, I realized that many of my possessions I had hung on to out of sentimentality for the giver, or on the off chance I might need that third yo-yo someday.
This Christmas season, my thoughts have begun centering around the sad fact that many of my possessions don’t do much good sitting around – how I wish that my stuff could do more good than just sitting here with us. And, slowly but surely, I have begun to realize the “power of the envelope”. Instead of leaving me with more stuff, other people’s resources have gone into very real and tangible gifts that are at work doing very real and tangible good, most of which I will never see, but for which I can be as aware (and thankful) as I choose to be.
I am thankful that stuff that I never received is doing way more good than stuff that is sitting around my house.
So I’m still giving out some “real” gifts this year, when an item or thing makes me think of someone in my life and I know they would appreciate it, but I’m also giving out more envelopes this year. And I can’t count the number of people who have told me they “have enough stuff”, which is saying something since counting is my profession.
My hope is that by choosing some gifts that actually help others who are in need, my heart (and our hearts) will continue to fall more in love with all the good we can do with the good we’ve already received. We are truly blessed to be a blessing.
The challenge? Give at least one “envelope” gift this year. Many charities have made it very easy, even offering “gift catalogs” for you to send these kinds of gifts to others in your life.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and see you in 2016!