A Meaningful Gift
- Published on Tuesday, 26 November 2013 08:40
|By: Marianne Lynch|
Black Friday marks the official start of the holiday shopping season (although I have been seeing Christmas commercials for a couple of weeks now) and I wanted to take a moment to think about why the whole idea of this day, and the frenzy it brings, makes me more than a little crabby.
First, let me start by admitting that last year, for the first time, I went shopping on Thanksgiving night. On top of that, I went to a major retailer that was selling TVs, computers and lots of other items for ridiculously low prices. I confess, I succumbed to the frenzy, picking up items because they were a good deal. When the shopping expedition was over, I had a cart full of items that I thought would be great presents for family and friends.
Now, flash forward a year later… most of the items from that cart are still in my closet or basement, waiting to be gifted because they really weren’t right for the receivers. After the mania, I looked critically at the items I’d purchased realizing that they didn’t have meaning to me or my loved one. To be honest, I felt a bit embarrassed that I had thought the $5 (wrong size!) PJs would be just perfect for my sister. Instead, they left me feeling empty and inadequate in sharing a gift with her that didn’t really express how I feel about her or our relationship.
I think that mindset of “more, more, more” is exactly what makes me crabby about Black Friday and maybe about what the holiday season has become. Instead of quality, it seems that marketers and retailers rely on consumers buying into the “quantity” mentality to hit their numbers for the year.
Maybe this idea of quality over quantity is what draws me to Habitat and keeps me passionate about this mission. Each year, we work with about 100 families helping them learn about financial literacy, homeownership and credit counseling. Not all of these families become homeowners through our program. In fact, only five will achieve this distinction this year. But, of those families served, the quality of the interaction is life-changing.
Families who make it through the homeownership program receive affordable, simple, decent, energy efficient homes with very low, interest-free payments. They also receive a gift much less tangible, but no less important – empowerment. By partnering with us, working alongside others, putting in 200 hours of sweat equity, and being willing to learn how to manage their budgets, they are able to achieve something difficult. For many of our homeowners, this perseverance in successfully navigating homeownership empowers them through many other difficult journeys in their lives, making each difficult point easier to overcome because they have achieved what many others have not.
Empowerment translates to their children as well, creating strong families who believe they are able to achieve goals like obtaining more education, getting better paying jobs, becoming business owners and following other powerful dreams. In addition, it serves as inspiration to the volunteers, staff, and many other community members who’ve watched them grow and gain confidence along the way.
So, when you are thinking about giving this holiday season, think about quality over quantity. What gifts might be meaningful to you and the receiver?
This year, I know I am doing things differently. I am thinking about gifts that mean something to me and to my loved ones. Some will be “just a little something” that I know will bring joy to them in a way that “more, more, more” simply cannot. Most will be to charitable causes that my friends and family members are passionate about, given in honor of them. Whatever the gift is, I know that it will have meaning, much like the gifts given to our families at Habitat.
- Published on Thursday, 31 October 2013 08:40
We are very grateful to have Pastor Kadel as our guest blogger this week. His beautifully written post is inspirational.
|By: Pastor Kadel, Christ Lutheran Church in Kulpsville, PA|
Birds need feathers to fly. Watch a slow motion video of a bird lifting into flight and you’ll see that wing feathers do an amazing thing. They come together to provide lift as the bird takes off.
Casual thought might conclude that Habitat for Humanity’s primary mission is to build and renovate houses. But that is not its mission. Its primary mission is to build and, in some cases, renovate hope. In 1861, American poet Emily Dickinson described hope as “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” Habitat for Humanity is the fine collection of feathers that allows hope to perch in someone’s soul.Hope is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -
And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -
I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
Recently I found myself unexpectedly transformed into a feather on the little bird of hope. And I had plenty of company. Christ Lutheran Church in Kulpsville had the opportunity to partner with Habitat for Humanity, Thrivent Builds, and a host of people, businesses, churches, civic groups and individuals to give rise to hope. We called it The Convergence.
The Convergence was a gathering of feathers to give lift to that little bird. It was a beautiful day in which well more than 100 people came together to bring hope to the families that will soon move into the duplex house being built by Habitat in Hatfield. It was not just about helping put up siding and drywall at that house – though that was surely done. It was about discovering how a community can come together to make itself better. And, to our surprise, it was not just the future occupants of the duplex that received the gift of hope. It was all of us. Friends and strangers worked together to achieve a worthy goal. But that was when something else happened. We discovered an unexpected hope in our own hearts. With God’s blessing, hope can perch in hearts. Some volunteers worked at the building site. Others did a “reverse” Brush With Kindness at Habitat’s offices in West Norriton through painting, cleaning, and landscaping. Still others donated furniture to ReStore. Youth wrote thank you notes to others who had volunteered through Habitat. Volunteers provided breakfast and lunch for the many workers. As the day began, we were a large group of individuals. As it ended, we were feathers on the little bird of hope. And mysteriously, the harder we volunteers worked to provide hope to others, the more the little bird perched in our own hearts. Perhaps that is how God always works. The bearers of hope also become its recipients.
No one made the mistake of believing that we volunteers were the hope. Hope is God’s gift and God’s gift alone. But what a blessing it was to become hope’s feathers.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to learn quite a lot about Millard and Linda Fuller and Clarence Jordan who first allowed themselves to become transformed into feathers in the racially hate-filled atmosphere of the deep South a few generations ago. The more they worked to bring hope to the underprivileged of Americas, Georgia, the more hope they themselves received. Habitat for Humanity was born in that very hope. As years have passed, this has not changed. The little bird has remained unabashed through many strong storms. Seeing how God could bring this community together in The Convergence gives me hope that it will remain through any strong storms to come.