A fundamental part of what it is to be human is to love, to give, to care, to demonstrate kindness and thoughtfulness towards others.
We all need to know that we are loved, important and valued, and while it is good for us to receive, it is also incredibly important to give…to keep that heart muscle of kindness pumping.
While we need to look after ourselves in order to be able to give of ourselves (and for Christ followers, we know the instruction to ‘Abide’ in Him so that we can ‘bear much fruit’ because apart from Him, The Source of sources, the True Source of Love, Light, Wisdom, Righteousness, Goodness and Truth, apart from Him we can do nothing of eternal significance that will stand the test of His Perfection), we still need to be giving out once we have received.
We exist to love and to be Loved, and yet in this fallen and dark humanity, it can often feel that this is hard to come by. Yet what might take very little effort from us, to reach out to check in on someone and ask if they are ok, to send a note, a text or an email or some other communication in this technologically flourishing world to say ‘I’m thinking of you’ is often something we don’t do often enough.
Is there anyone in your life today who can benefit from your kindness, the power of your gracious words, your time?
Send that text.
Pick up that phone to your family member.
Remember that person who is probably lonely.
Give to a stranger.
Give to a friend.
To be the fullest versions of ourselves we need to be thoughtful Givers as well as receivers. It will benefit not only them, but you as well. Who can you bless with your love today? x
The other day, I was talking on the phone with a Christian friend of mine, and she encouraged me for us both to pray for each other to know how God would have us serve Him and help other people in this time.
Neither of us are by nature the boldest or most confident of people, but sometimes we all just need to be willing to seek and find ways to help other people.
Perhaps you are similar. Maybe you want to use some of your time to help other people but don’t quite know where to start or maybe opportunities arise but you don’t feel confident in them. I have a confession to make that this is where I found myself, and therefore thought that writing a blog post would be a good place to start.
My friend and I were discussing ways in which prior to Covid-19, our churches did face-to-face work with international students to help them feel more welcome in our city when they were so far away from home and everything familiar to them in terms of culture, language, day-to-day life, and far from friends and family. We decided to pray about whether God wants us to help international students in any way or to use us in other ways.
Well, shortly after this, I came across an email from my church that I had perhaps missed before. It was a volunteering opportunity to provide telephone or online support for a short time to international students far from home, to have someone to talk to, practice their English with, and be a source of friendship and support during their start to the University year in the time of the pandemic.
I saw this and thought that’s a great idea. I only saw it a few days ago, at the start of October, but as I read through the volunteer application, for some reason, doubts began to creep into my mind. It said that the start of this would be the end of September. I start overthinking whether or not it’s too late to get involved. My friend was the one particularly interested in international student ministry, but she is away visiting family elsewhere so I can’t update her properly about it. What if I don’t know what to say, or if I’m not good at helping people practice their English, what if I’m not good at it? Doubts and questions came to my mind, as did the thought that I had previously wanted to volunteer somehow to ‘befriend’ by telephone an older person, isolated during the pandemic. Of course some of this may just seem ‘silly’ and overthinking, but I do have generalised anxiety disorder, and in a way this situation has kept me from action as well as prompting me to take action.
While the above doubts caused me to hesitate in one area, they also have spurred me to write this blog post to encourage you.
Sometimes we know we want to help but don’t know where to start. At other times, opportunities may arise but perhaps a lack of confidence or other commitments in our lives may ‘get in the way’ if we allow them, from taking action.
While in such cases, we may respond by ‘beating ourselves up about it’, we can also look at things another way.
If you want to help people, don’t feel discouraged if you are not doing as much as other people, or as much as you had hoped to. Simply start from where you are and allow that momentum to build.
There are so many people in need of help right now that if you miss one opportunity that doesn’t mean that someone else won’t be there to pick it up, or that you won’t find another opportunity. The whole world is in need of help.
As I said, start from where you are.
– Look around you and consider the people in your life whom you know and can provide some support or encouragement to.
– Maybe you can be that compassionate and listening ear to a friend who is going through a hard time. If you are not in a position to provide that level of support, perhaps you could send an encouraging text, email, message or card, or give someone a phone call to let them know you care.
-Maybe you can’t volunteer regularly at a food bank, but perhaps you could make a donation, or help one of your neighbours.
-Maybe you are helping others in your job or home or personal life and taking some time to recharge your own batteries right now is the best thing you can do to continue to be there for other people without ‘burning out’.
-Perhaps you can commit to praying for certain people.
-What do you enjoy doing and are good at? Maybe you’ve missed an opportunity, but you can take more time to reflect upon what you can do and start researching ways in which you can get involved in other things.
– Think about how to lighten the load of the people in your life just now if you live with others. Can you help with housework, can you take time to talk, or simply encourage times of fun and laughter, relaxation and play during what might be a stressful time?
– Can you use your platform as a blogger to share some love and kindness and encouragement? Maybe you can write a post about mental health and wellbeing, you could share encouraging stories of what you have experienced and learned from this very strange year, as it may be just what someone else needs to hear.
– Are you artistic or musical or creative in some way, and can you use and develop these gifts and talents to bring happiness to someone else?
There are so many ways we can continue to reach out to and help and support each other. Maybe we don’t always get it right, but a willingness to take these small steps forward, and making a change little by little could make a real difference to someone in need in these challenging times.
Take care, be kind to yourself and each other, and God bless. x
“What is a reverse advent calendar?” I hear you ask 🙂
Traditionally when we think about ‘Advent’ we are referring to a season observed by many Christians that is symbolic of the expectancy of Christ’s first Coming into the world, and the preparation and celebration of the Nativity of Jesus Christ at Christmas, and the return of Jesus at His Second Coming, which we still expectantly await.
Advent calendars fill the shops, and most people think of them as a kind of a ‘countdown’ to Christmas. They pop open little cardboard flaps on a cardboard advent calendar, and then pop a little festive shaped chocolate into their mouths, and so it goes. Advent calendars have over the past few years become much more elaborate though with people having the option of spending a small fortune on high end advent calendars that contain everything from chocolates, teas, beauty products and the like.
A ‘reverse advent calendar’ turns the commercialised idea of an advent calendar on its head. Jesus came in meekness and humility and love, and He came to serve other people and to give. We use advent calendars as a way of ‘treating ourselves’. To reverse this would be to give to other people.
One way in which to do this is as you ‘count down’ to Christmas, each day, or for whatever time frame suits you and is most convenient, collect an item that you can give to someone who is in need and without the blessings of food and warmth that you and I enjoy and often take for granted.
For example, you could collect items for a food bank, a soup kitchen or a homeless charity, and once you have collected them all, you have a collection of things that you can give away.
Perhaps this is something that you could do with friends or family, to encourage a community spirit and to help each other think of other people who are in need this season. And if you feel financial pressures yourself, just think that buying a tin of soup is probably cheaper than buying a box of Christmas crackers or novelty toys, and will go a lot further in making a difference. You could even pick up an extra item when you do your own shopping and you will hardly notice the ‘dent’ in your purse or wallet if you do.
If you are in the position to do so, you and your friends and family could collect some change each day and at the end of the time you could contribute that money to a worthwhile cause or charity.
Is this something that sounds like a good idea to you, and would you try it out with your friends and family or by yourself? Maybe it is something you could introduce into your workplace and see how many other people you can get on board. A little goes a long way, and it will make difference to someone this year if we consider ‘reversing’ our advent calendars to celebrate what should be a season of giving rather than getting. Be blessed. x
The slowing of the seasons brings with them a natural point of reflection and contemplation in our days. I personally find that as they days and nights grow colder, when darkness arrives early and the temperature suddenly drops, as shops begin to fill with decorations, and as we see those lovely cosy advertisements of warm, happy, fun filled, bountiful festivities reminding us to shop for good food at low prices, and to buy the latest gifts for our friends, families and loved ones, and ourselves, that the contrast between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ becomes starker.
I feel blessed to live where I live – a city with green spaces such as parks. It means that I can get away from the hustle and bustle of life and enjoy nature, but also that I’m not hiding myself away from or secluded from the harsher realities of other people’s lives.
In one day, walking through my city, I could have spent some peaceful times of solitude reflecting upon beautiful autumn and winter scenes in the park, watching squirrels and ducks, and maybe stopping for a coffee or going for lunch or to the shops with friends, in any one of numerous locations. But I also will inevitably walk past a number of homeless people, those who are cold, vulnerable, forgotten, lonely, with nowhere to go and nothing to eat. Sometimes I will stop and talk to one of them or offer some food or give out a pre-prepared ‘care package’ that I’ve made, and give what I can as I am able and when it is safe to do so. (Obviously it’s important to keep ourselves safe, and to be aware that not everyone is genuine, therefore I am careful to either help via homeless charities, and / or to help directly when in well lit places, near shops and where other people are coming and going, because I feel that is safer for a young woman to do so, and to do so in daylight, or if in the evening, only when I am in company with friends for example).
I feel blessed to have these contrasting perspectives. It is lovely to spend time in beautiful places, enjoying ‘the good life’ even if that is in the simple things such as a walk in the park, lunch with a friend, taking photographs of wildlife, going to the cinema or wandering around the shops to do some window shopping. It’s also lovely as Christmas approaches to enjoy the variety of Christmas markets in my city and other neighbouring cities that are only an hour or so travel time away. However, some of my most poignant memories of going to these lovely, bright, beautiful, cosy and festive Christmas markets, stocked with handmade goodies, with delicious smells wafting invitingly by, are those of seeing the people at the edges, at the fringes, hoping for some compassion, and knowing that they will be forgotten about, overlooked, and maybe even that they may not make it through the night as the temperature falls. While my friends, family and I can enjoy the outdoor fun because we know we will have a warm place to go afterwards, many all around us do not.
Even if you aren’t face to face with those who are marginalised and suffering and unable to meet their daily and basic needs, for whatever reason they find themselves in that position, we are still all part of a world, a society in which those who have far less than us exist.
It can be easy to feel ‘guilty’ for enjoying what we can, or for feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Yes, I know that problems of homelessness and so forth exist all year around, however, I feel that it must be so much more painful during certain times of the year when those sitting on the pavements of our cities see everyone else frivolously throwing their money away on unnecessary frivolities, things they don’t care for or need, and enjoying themselves in a way that is more apparent than during other months.
I can’t imagine how hard that must be for someone watching on, hoping for a scrap of food, human contact or some small offering of compassion.
I know some people have their views and judgements and stereotypes, but I prefer not to judge why someone is in the position they are in. Rather, I think “There but for the Grace of God go I” and in such a situation what would I want my fellow human beings to do?
There is a lot that we just cannot do. However, don’t let that discourage you.
Think of all the many good things you can do, or be involved in, and even if you do ‘just’ one thing, that will mean something to someone, and that someone matters as much as you do. If each one of us adds one act of kindness for someone in need this season in addition to all the gifts we give to people we know and love, think of the difference that will make to those who otherwise would be forgotten, marginalised, lost, alone, hungry, cold and in need of some human kindness.
There are so many homeless people who are in need of a kind word, a human touch, some food, drink, warmth, safety or even financial help – is it in your power to give a little to someone this month, to let someone know they’re cared about?