It was a week before Christmas. We were visiting in Louisville with our daughter, Laura, and her husband, Adrian, to celebrate their December birthdays. Also present were Austin, our 5-month-old grandson, and Brianna, our granddaughter who is Adrian’s daughter and who lives in Puerto Rico with her mother. Brianna is age 10. I share these details because it may help you to picture the scene.
Their house was all decorated for Christmas, and so even though we were celebrating birthdays the discussion turned easily to Christmas. I asked Brianna if she was excited about Christmas. She replied, “Yes!” very enthusiastically. I asked, “Are you excited to think the of gifts you will get?” Brianna replied quite seriously, “I am more excited about giving gifts. I like to see people look so happy when they open my gifts.”
Wow! Out of the mouth of a child came the great truth about gift-giving. No, don’t get me wrong. We have just enjoyed a great Christmas with our growing family and Brianna is a typical 10-year-old who screams with joy as she opens her gifts. But she also clearly loves seeing the reaction of others when they open gifts from her.
The truth is that we are gifted to give. We are all given gifts, and it is fine to enjoy those gifts. But our gifts are not just for us – we are gifted in order to give to others.
Congress has passed and the President has signed a law which will extend the current tax rates (the so-called Bush Tax Cuts) for two years. That means every American, rich and poor, will not receive a major increase in taxes in 2011 and 2012. Whether or not that new law is a good idea can be debated by the economists (I for one worry about when we are going to get serious about paying down our national debt), but I want to ask another question:
What will we all do with that extra money in our pockets in 2011 and 2012? Will we pay our own bills and debts? That is probably a good thing. Will we simply spend more and more? That is probably not a good thing.
The real question is this: Will we give more? Will having more money in our pockets, checkbooks, and stock portfolios mean that we will be more generous?
We have been gifted (yes with our own money that the government is not taking from us), but what will we do with it?
There was a lot of talk during the debate in Congress about the issues of “rich and poor” – and I certainly share the concern that all income levels need to pay our fair share. But all that talk seemed to overlook the fact that, from a global perspective, nearly all of us are “rich” in money. It may not feel that way to us sometimes as we look at our post-Christmas bills, but most of us in America, even those living below poverty level, are “rich” in terms of the world’s resources.
What will we do with these riches, these gifts? Will we simply spend more on ourselves, or will we give more for others?
I believe that we are gifted in order to give. And I was reminded by Brianna that there is great joy in that giving.