Tuesday, December 05, 2006

One Gift, Twice the Joy

From the current issue of Focus on the Family magazine comes these intriguing words about creative Christmas giving from Greg Asimakoupoulos:

"I sat in my favorite chair by the fireplace and pondered my annual December dilemma: What should we give my parents and my brother's family for Christmas? After all, they have everything they need. How could I surprise my folks with something that isn't frivolous or unnecessary?

As I sorted through the day's mail, a flyer grabbed my attention. Sandwiched between the Christmas cards was a full-color brochure from Free Wheelchair Mission in Southern California that invited me to make a difference for those with disabilities. For about $45, they assemble and deliver a wheelchair to a developing country where countless crippled people crawl on the ground.

I noted the images of the lightweight wheelchairs constructed of plastic chairs and mountain bike tires. I was impressed at how inexpensive it would be to give a gift that would be useful long after Christmas. My thoughts went back to my grandfather who contracted polio as a baby in Norway, and I pictured him as a child being pulled in a wooden box by his siblings.

Then the idea hit me. Why not spend the money that we would ordinarily invest in gifts and instead use it on wheelchairs and give them on behalf of my brother's family? I mentioned the idea to my wife, and she suggested we give chairs in the names of our three daughters as part of their gifts as well.

We shared the brochure with others in our church and more people caught the vision. A wealthy gentleman in our congregation offered to match dollar-for-dollar any cash donated for the wheelchairs. In the end, our church of 350 people purchased and sent more than 1,100 wheelchairs to Indonesia!

'But how would my family I respond?' I thought. On Christmas Eve, as our family gathered to exchange gifts, they noted a few envelopes instead of brightly wrapped packages beneath the tree. I held my breath as I watched each family member open a card that showed a picture of a wheelchair and an explanation of what had been given in his or her name. To my delight, each one broke into a smile.

The true joy of gift giving happens when we give a gift that someone truly needs but cannot provide for himself. After all, that's the essence of what God gave us that first Christmas.