I grew up in an era when you wore black shoes with a blue suit, and the color of your belt (you always wore a belt) matched the color of your shoes: black shoes, black belt; brown shoes, brown belt. Well, over the years I got a cool pair of gray boots and a gray pair of casual shoes, and somewhere along the line I lost a gray belt. I mention all this because I recently went to wear those gray shoes and realized I had to go with a black or white (eeek!) belt; or Heaven Forbid, no belt at all! That got me to take a quick inventory of my life and I realized that I was in the very enviable position of having all of my needs met, other than a gray belt. This is how well God has blessed me. A gray belt was all I needed. Pretty trivial, right? I am guessing that for most of us the same is true. Consider what you really need to live a good life: a roof over your head, somewhere safe and warm to sleep, food on the table, a decent job – the basics.
Of course, life is certainly more than surviving to our life expectancy, but for the purpose of this rant, I’m focused on true needs vs. wants. Now think about the gifts that were presented to the Holy Family when Jesus was born – Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. One might say that Jesus and family had more pressing needs than some incense and flashy jewelry. But this is truly a case of God anticipating a real need and meeting it. For, soon after receiving these gifts, Mary and Joseph had to flee Israel with their son to Egypt to escape the ‘slaughter of the innocents’ ordered by King Herod in his attempt to snuff out this rival ‘King’. Gold was, and remains, the international currency. Frankincense and Myrrh were treasured even more so in their ultimate destination of Egypt because of its pivotal use in the customs of mummification and idol worship. So here we have God establishing a tradition of using those with much to bless those in need.
So where am I going with all this? It being Christmas soon, I am reminded that although the gratuitous giving of gifts is probably nice for the recipient, it is often a burden for the giver. (“What are we going to get your Mother?”) A burden in that, these gifts for the most part are not responding to a true basic need, but more to this unspoken ‘obligation to give’ that often leaves both parties somewhat relieved when it’s over. (Of course, unless you’re a kid.) And in the tradition of the wise men (well-off) gifting to the Holy family (in need), I’m proposing that the giving part of our annual celebration be directed to those with real needs and not so much those who will likely not remember what they got a year from now anyway. So, although I truly appreciate the kind gesture of your holiday gift, I would be so very thrilled if you instead directed your generosity and resources to those who have real needs, and not just during Christmas. Because you see, I did get that belt, so I’m good. Merry Christmas to All!