By: Aaron P. Graft
A few weeks ago, my wife Kimberly received a surprising text from a friend who lives outside of the U.S. It asked, “May we stay with you starting December 16th?” It came as a surprise because, while we shared a group of friends, we hadn’t spent much time with this particular family. When we had last talked months before, I had told them that they were welcome to stay with us anytime they were in Dallas.
Kimberly and I hadn’t expected the request at this time of year. For a split second, we processed all of the plans we had over the Christmas holidays – and all the preparations that needed to happen to make those plans a reality. The primary burden for these preparations always falls on Kimberly. Now with guests arriving less than two weeks before the holiday, she knew it would put everything into hyper-drive.
After that moment, we looked at each other and said, “If we are too busy to have guests over the Christmas holidays, then what is the purpose of the season at all?” Is the purpose perfectly planned parties, beautifully wrapped gifts or meticulously decorated houses? Or is the purpose to be intentional with family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers? I think we all internally acknowledge and tritely say that people are the most important part of the holiday; however, when that reality comes crashing into our well-constructed plans, it tests whether we actually believe what we so easily say.
Some other friends have been encouraging me on the topic of generosity recently. They have reminded me that everything Kimberly and I have – our time, our house, our money, our God-given talents – these are morally neutral things. How we use things demonstrates what we believe far more than eloquent words we might say or write on a card. If we believe that we are responsible for those things – that they belong to us for our enjoyment – then we will use them in a way that brings us the most pleasure. It might include helping others when it is convenient because that makes us feel good, but the decision of whether to help someone will be centered on how we feel in the moment.
If, on the other hand, we believe that we are stewards of everything we have – that we don’t really own our money, our time, our house, our talents – that they are on loan to us for a season to bless others, then that changes our perspective radically. I know in my heart that this is the truth, but I can be a selfish person. I have to remind myself that the most meaningful investment is to bless other people whenever I can. Kimberly is more of a natural at this, and she has taught me much about caring for others during our 15+ years of marriage.
As a friend recently reminded me, truly generous people are almost always joyful. They have the richest lives regardless of how much money they have.
The last few days with our house guests have been a tremendous blessing to the Graft family. What were once good acquaintances are now good friends. Our kids have played constantly with their kids (without much need for a television). Our friends have blessed us with the richness of their story, and we have been able to provide them with lodging, food and fellowship as they spend this season far away from home.
I don’t know what your Christmas season will bring, but my wish and prayer for all of us is that it will be a season of generosity. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!