Learning to be generous with those who are less fortunate is a lesson that can be taught from our earliest years. As we learn to share within our families and with friends, we can also learn to share with those around us. Often parishes and other organizations have giving trees and collections during the holidays. Many families make a point of taking their children to shop for these gifts, explaining to them why we reach out to others in a special way at this time of year. It gives them an appreciation for what they have and an awareness of our call to care for the least of our brothers and sisters. While necessities are important, it’s lovely to add a few niceties as well. Pope Francis has done a wonderful job of modeling true charity that feeds the heart and soul as well as the body. He’s arranged for food, shelter, even showers for Rome’s homeless, but he’s also had his almoner arrange beach visits, pizza parties, and visits to the Sistine Chapel. Jesus calls us to treat others not only as we would like to be treated, but also as we would do if we were serving him.
The familiar Peace Prayer of St. Francis assures us that “it is in giving that we receive.” If you haven’t already chosen a charity for this Christmas season, make a point of doing so today. There’s no shortage of need in our world, and if you like, you can find something that fits your family’s interests. This will make it more personal, more of a bond than a cold and impersonal duty. You might want to think about making a commitment to this group through the year. Often we donate or volunteer at the holidays because of special appeals for donations, but the needs aren’t limited to one or two months of the year.
—from the book The Peace of Christmas: Quiet Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek