Friday, December 28, 2007

A different kind of giving

All these Saturdays of December, I have been advocating the Christian act of giving. But there are certain acts of giving that I do not support. Remember that familiar saying: Give a man fish and he will eat fish for the day; teach a man to fish and he will eat fish the rest of his life.

I noticed that a lot of meaningless, sometimes downright degrading, giving is done particularly during the Christmas season. One example is giving alms, in cash or in kind. Do you notice that around December, there are more children in the street than at any time of the year, including "mothers" carrying babies? These "mothers" are still children themselves. I asked one and she said she is only 10 years old. Whose child is she carrying? So she gets a lot of sympathetic alms (Php1 to 5 per motorist). The Ifugaos used to occupy all Metro Manila street corners, I wonder where they are now. For as long as there are people who give alms, there will always be beggars or parents who make they children beg to support their family.

Another example is the kris kringle. Ask anybody who participates in such office favorite activity why they do it? Nobody even knows where this forced gift-giving originated from. Maybe if you do it once in five years, it gets exciting. But when you do it yearly, the novelty and the meaning of gift-giving is lost in you. You hear nothing but complaints from people who participate in this futile exercise. In the long run, it becomes expensive, especially when your "baby" is one of the bosses. The one advantage is that participants are given the liberty to shop for gifts during office hours after all it is an "officially" sanctioned activity especially when the boss is into it.

Another futile gift-giving tradition is the exchange gift. Okay, the rule is to bring a gift worth Php100 or Php200 or whatever. So I normally buy a useful gift that is more than the stated amount, say Php150 or even Php200 for a Php100 exchange gift. What do I get? A box of brownies (Php60), a ceramic cat figurine (Php50) or a hastily wrapped something, anything. Or some simply put money in an envelope saying that they have no time to shop for a decent gift. Huh?

It gives me a lot of pleasure giving gifts on Christmas or on occasions or any old time of the day whenever I happen to see something that I think my family or friend could use. My house, they say, is a virtual library cum warehouse. I usually give books as gift and they are always appreciated because when I buy a book I know exactly to whom I would give it.

When I give I don't normally wait for something in return. This Christmas, my mother and the street sweepers in our baranggay are all too happy to eat the many cakes, cookies and other eatables that I receive as gifts. Except for chocolates, I am not glad about receiving food gifts that easily spoil. I consider as insincere gifts those that are bought without the gift recipient in mind. I have accumulated balikbayan boxes of candles when candle as gift was in vogue. Votive candles, tall, fat, scented, different colors, different shapes, different containers, all candles. Tell me, how many candles can one person use in a lifetime? I normally keep gifts until I could use them or they rot or I had to give them away because they are occupying precious real estate. The candles have to go as soon as I get them.

Some buy gifts according to their budget or disposable income. That's fine, but there is no dogma or rule or chapters in the Scripture that requires one to give gifts. The three Kings did bring important gifts for Jesus. The shepherds gave their gifts of faith and joy.

One vicious gift is to give everything a child wants or needs in excessive quantity. This gift will go back to you in the form of a spoiled brat—one gift you never want to endure.

It's the New Year. It is the time to rethink our giving habits. There are many people in need of our gifts of love and all forms of assistance. Let's give to them in a meaningful, helpful, joyful way. Let us give to make us and the recipients of our gifts become better persons.


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