I have this problem, maybe you can help me with it. Maybe, I can help myself with it.
Anyway, here is my problem and what I have discovered through a process of thought and action.
I have been bad-mouthing Christmas for at least 20 years, minimum. I still tend to pronounce negative things about Christmas and its commercial aspects. We are all, all of us, too familiar with that.
This year, right after my eldest son’s birthday, Dec. 6, I began thinking about my negative approach and my scrooge-like attitude at Christmas time and all those blasphemous outpourings.
And I thought, “Why don’t I quit this blathering and actually do something positive?”
“Like what?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” I answered, “But, I know you can be positive and come up with something that will be in a giving spirit for the benefit of someone else.”
“Yeah” I thought to my other self, “I can do that.”
Now let’s see; what can I do that will be in the true spirit of Christmas? You know, giving with no thought of return. But what can I give?
The thing I am good at professionally — taking pictures. Of course.
I wrote down an offer and made it into an ad and placed it in the Roundup: “Free offer to the community. One FREE 8x10 print of a family portrait. Two restrictions; no pets and no more than five people. Call Andy 928-358-2427 for an appointment. Offer good until Dec. 19.”
That was my offer. I decided the only thing to do was to be a positive force in a too commercial Christmas season by actually giving something away and not wanting anything in return.
Further thought led me to declare to my family that I would not be giving or receiving Christmas gifts this year, and probably not in the future. If you want to give me a gift, give of yourself and go do something positive and good for someone and throw “What’s in it for me?” away. Isn’t that a true Christ-like action?
Believe me, I cannot even touch his sandals, but if I am to celebrate Christmas, at least I’ll do something positive and worthwhile for someone else, preferably someone I do not know.
So, I start getting calls and arranging portraits after work hours. I have not received as many calls or appointments as I thought I would get. People are leery of free offers, I think, because other commercial interests offer things for free and then grab you with a catch. Not me. If it is free, take my word, it is free.
Originally, 21 families signed up, so far, 16 have actually kept their appointments. The response has been interesting to say it marginally. Families of all kinds have been in and posed for me and have been very cooperative.
But several things have happened, I did not expect. For example: some have offered to pay me for more pictures. No, I cannot sell Christmas and what I offered for free, that is missing the point. Some have given me hugs and huge thank yous for such a kind offer. Some have said, God bless you, some have wished me Merry Christmas and have said you are blessed for your act of kindness. For one individual I made Christmas for her.
Whoa! My intent was just to be a part of a solution, to get people to think about giving. To realize and understand what Christmas really means, and it has nothing to do with getting gifts, but everything to do with releasing yourself to acts of kindness, spontaneous, thoughtful, planned, or unplanned, but with the purpose of helping some other person just to help them. To give them something of yourself, no strings, no catches, no gimmicks, no reward, nothing but a free act of kindness.
I did not anticipate the outpouring of handshakes, hugs and tears — mine and theirs. I just thought I would do something for others so they may benefit. The good and kind responses took me by surprise. Maybe they were supposed to.
Has the time and effort been worth it? That is not a question that even entered my mind. When one does for others, questions like that are not part of the process. Part of the activity of giving is; do it, there is no me, there is only them and have they received a true gift.
A few families have come in and gotten their pictures taken and have been grateful for the free offer, as they have not had a decent family picture for a long time and did not know when they were going to get another one.
Now, who has benefitted more from this project? Me, or those families who have come forward and made the call?
You decide. I cannot. Upon reflection, we have all gained a measure of Christmas and its true meaning. And that was the purpose of this offer. One true gift, from this perspective, is giving away a part of yourself to someone else.
Happy Birthday, Jesus Christ, and many more.
Free yourself, give of yourself.