Each year people gather together with family and friends and practice traditions of their faith and their culture. Many of these traditions revolve around food while others revolve around giving gifts. For families who face economic challenges, either of these traditions can place added strain on their already stressful lives. How do you bring together a large gathering of people and feed them all when you already struggle to put food on the table each day? How do you find spare resources to buy gifts for those you love when you wonder each month if there will be enough coming in to cover basic needs?
One tradition in my extended family is to draw names and get a gift for the one person whose name you draw. With their name is a list of the sizes they wear, favorite color, or a store they may really like to shop at. My mom, who had the ability to buy what she wanted throughout the year but remembered what it was like when we did not have enough to eat, decided instead to write the names of charities she wanted a donation to go to in her honor. And just like that, a new tradition was born.
Each year since my family has donated to various causes at Christmas in honor of our loved ones. Sometimes it has been in recognition of a particular event that happened that year. When a loved one lost a long battle with cancer, we gave to the American Cancer Society. We have donated to Women at Risk, a local Grand Rapids charity fighting abuse of women around the world, the food pantry at my church and the Salvation Army, in recognition of the hunger my family faced when my dad lost his job in the auto industry. My mom had a special place in her heart for giving and instilled that in the rest of us as well. This will be our first year celebrating Christmas without her. My gifts to all will be made in her memory this year and given to the NOW Pantry, as my mom struggled with heart conditions throughout her last years.
What do your family traditions look like? Do you have someone you buy a gift for each year because you love them and want to honor them, but struggle with what to get because they have so much already? Honor that person by choosing an organization that speaks to something special about them in your heart and make a donation in their name. Perhaps that organization is The Pantry, because your loved one battles a chronic disease like diabetes or heart disease and you can see them in the faces of our NOW Pantry participants. Or you enjoy gardening with your loved on and give to our Fresh Market to help others have access to fresh produce as well. The animal lover in your life might appreciate a donation to our Kibble Konnection which provides monthly pet food for low income families. Your gift will be a blessing for so many people and will be a way to give thanks for all you have. What ever you choose and however you celebrate, may your season be filled with love and laughter, family and friends, and God’s blessings.