It’s amazing what people can do to the Christmas spirit of giving by unintentionally turning it into a guilt trip. That is the trend in many neighborhoods on the Wasatch Front.
In the spirit of the season, it is misguided. In many instances, neighbors are taking it upon themselves to recommend to others how to give gifts — notes, comments to groups, etc., saying we aren’t giving neighbor gifts and between the lines, you shouldn’t either.
The note or comment will usually mention agencies in a phrase such as, we are collecting for the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, Deseret Industries, United Way or whoever. These and others are all fine worthwhile agencies worth our time, donations from youth service projects, fundraising activities and personal charity decisions.
But to give a small candle, a popcorn ball, a bag of divinity or another remembrance of friendship to neighbors, is also an act of caring.
It is caring for the group of families we happen to live around. The ones who collect the mail for us when we are on vacation, the ones who feed our cat, the ones we talk to across the yard on a warm summer evening, the ones who watch our kids on a moment’s notice, the ones on unemployment or the quiet person in the neighborhood who lives alone because of death or some other setback in life. And after the last windstorm, the ones who helped you clean up.
You ponder the well-meaning notes and comments from well-meaning neighbors and think, “if I give them something, I’ll be in the wrong, but I wish I could.”
Gifts should be from the heart. They are a private, personal decision of charity. Some people are also bad gift receivers, but that is a subject for another day.
To quote from the King James version of the Bible (Matthew 6:3-4), “But when thou doest alms, let not they left hand know they right hand doeth. That thine alms may be in secret. …”
Or “giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed,” said Thomas S. Monson president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at a Christmas devotional in 1995.
Or, from Anne Frank: “No one has ever become poor from giving.’
May the spirit of giving — however you define it — be with you this season.
Christensen is the Standard-Examiner’s presentation editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org