By Barbara White
When in 1996 a local Secondary School opened, the staff decided to create a tradition to prepare Christmas Hampers for those in need. Each advisory class (of around 18 students G9-12) would adopt a family to help out. The students only know how many members in the family, ages of the children, and whether they have any food allergies. Every year, 65 "70 hampers are delivered to families. Inside each hamper is a note from the school principal wishing the family a Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy new year. It explains how the hamper was put together by the students and adds (I quote) "We hope that this hamper will bring you joy at this special time of year as it was put together with much love and care."
What would you think the experience of delivering a hamper would be? In my minds eye I would imagine this scenario knocking at the door, and seeing the face of the mother light up, excited voices and delighted faces of children gathering at the door to receive the four or five large boxes, all wrapped in Christmas paper being delivered. I would imagine seeing the relief and gratitude on the mothers face, perhaps moist eyes, as she realizes there will be plenty of food to go round this Christmas. She may feel, perhaps, amazement and a little overwhelmed that total strangers would go out of their way to be so generous. Seeing those things would be all the reward those students needed for their selfless giving, and what a memory to have in the impressionable teenage years.
Unfortunately this imagined scene is not reality in the experience of the school. One of the teachers told me one of three things normally happen. When the hampers are delivered (either by the teacher or a trusted Grade 12 student), sometimes there is a thank you, sometimes a terse "put it over there", and sometimes no one answers the door.
Now I understand that it is embarrassing and humbling to receive, and many people find it very difficult, and may not be able to show their appreciation in person. There are other ways to show gratitude and say thank you, a thank you note to the school, a phone call or a letter. Sadly this seldom happens. I was shocked!! The school has probably prepared over 700 hampers since 1996, and have seldom received any acknowledgement whatsoever. The teachers reassure the students that the hampers were appreciated, and the school keeps on giving. At this time the students are planning how they can help the victims of the tsunami. The teacher's comment was "The students are amazing!
There is a well-known saying that it is better to give than receive; I would say that it is also easier to give than receive. I don't know why it is so hard to show real appreciation when we receive something, but it is not just a cultural or generational problem.
In the gospel of Luke we learn that it was difficult over 2000 years ago. Leprosy is a terrible disease that eats away at a person's flesh, and is very contagious. In biblical times there was no cure. To have leprosy meant living outside the town, being ostracized from society, no longer able to live a normal life with your family, maybe never being able to hug your children, only being able to speak to them or see them from a distance. If you had leprosy you had to walk about warning people by ringing a bell and shouting "unclean, unclean so people would keep away from you. Can you imagine living like that! Jesus met ten of these lepers one day, and told them to show themselves to the priest, as they went they were healed. Not only was the pain and suffering gone, but also their lifestyle was to be transformed. They could be reunited with their family, work, and be part of community again. Luke's account tells us that one of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He THREW himself at Jesus feet and thanked him. Only one out of ten showed gratitude for such a huge life-changing miracle!
We are so blessed by God and by the people around us. Yet in a society, which seeks "instant satisfaction, it is easy to take many things for granted and not really demonstrate appreciation. We are raised to say "thank you", but so often it comes out of our mouths automatically without really thinking about how grateful and appreciative we are. Our society has many expectations - good service, to have meals, to be warm and comfortable in a home, and because we're used to this kind of lifestyle it's easy to lose a sense of gratitude and appreciation. Saying thank you is sufficient, and is the right thing to do, yet have you considered how by going out of our way to show appreciation we can bless others and make them feel valued? When we show appreciation, we can make such a difference to someone's day. A thank you note, a surprise gift, a letter commending good customer service to an employer, or a smile and a word of appreciation to the cashier at the checkout are some of the many ways we can show gratitude. Often showing appreciation, a short time after someone has blessed us, touches a person's heart, as it demonstrates that what he or she did was noticed and appreciated. It costs us so little to take a moment to take someone aside to say thanks, you did a good job, and yet it can mean so much!
Being a thankful people is God's heart for us. Scripture tells us many times to give thanks, give thanks to God, and also to those around us. To be known as a person who is thankful, showing gratitude and appreciation for all things that we have been given reflects God's love to the world around us. Our life is a gift, our health, all we have, and all the ways that people serve and give to us are gifts, not rights we can demand or expect. Col 2v7 encourages us to be overflowing in thankfulness. Let this year be the year when we grow in our thankfulness, and take more time to show others our appreciation for them as individuals, and the things that they do.
Barbara White copyright 2005
About the author:
Barbara White is the President of Beyond Better Development. As a speaker and author, Barbara brings her passion and expertise in leadership development to work with people to help them grow towards excellence in their personal and professional life.