A Kindle cover. Seasons 4 & 5 of Friday Night Lights. Season 7 of Grey’s Anatomy. An Iowa State phone cover. That’s the start of a pretty solid Christmas list. And I’ve already given those ideas out to people–so don’t go buying me that stuff.

Every year we make Christmas lists, and we ask for things that probably aren’t things we need. Instead they’re typically things we want, but won’t buy ourselves. I think it’s okay to want things so long as our wanting is within reason, but last night I had an epiphany. I think.

I went caroling with our church at a local retirement community last night. I expected to go in, sing a few carols, and be on my way. What I didn’t expect was for a little old lady named Pat to hurry back to her room so that she could bring out a box full of candy for us. I didn’t expect for another elderly woman to sing along with us in one of the most beautiful Italian accents I’ve ever heard. And I didn’t expect to bring a man and his wife to tears when we sang O Little Town of Bethlehem outside his door. It was the last thing that happened that REALLY got me though.

After our caroling was over, our group stopped in a dining room of sorts to pray for both the residents and the staff. Upon doing so, one of the elderly men who had been listening to us came shuffling down the hall, and seeing that we were praying, he respectfully stopped. After we were done, he walked up and said this, “If I was going to add anything to your prayer I would’ve thanked God for you guys and for coming here tonight and singing to us.”

And that’s when it dawned on me. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is your time. So many of the people in these retirement communities don’t have anyone and by singing to someone for FIVE minutes, we moved them to tears. Spending just ONE hour with these people, prompted a man to want to thank God for us. That’s a pretty amazing feeling.

Some of you may read this and smile and nod and think, “That’s what Christmas is all about.” And you’re right. It is. But here’s my question for you. Why is it only at Christmas that we think about these things? The elderly always need visitors, food pantries always need food, the Salvation Army always needs donations. I think it’s great that so many people think about these things around Christmastime, but think about all the help we could provide if we took a little time out of our schedules all year long!

So I suppose maybe I’m issuing a challenge of sorts. Do your thing during Christmas. Throw some change in one of the Salvation Army kettles, donate food to a local food bank, serve at a soup kitchen. But then, after Christmas is over, keep doing it. All anyone in this world wants is your time, and when you’re able to give someone that, believe me–you’ll forget all about the things you want.

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