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Finding the sacred in everyday life
Day 8: Choosing gifts that welcome
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Marketta Gregory never meant to be a columnist. \x34I trained to be a newspaper reporter -- one who tried to her best to be objective. I covered religion for a few years and felt like it was the best job a curious woman like me could ever have. ...
Simply Faithful
Marketta Gregory never meant to be a columnist. I trained to be a newspaper reporter -- one who tried to her best to be objective. I covered religion for a few years and felt like it was the best job a curious woman like me could ever have. Every day I got to listen as people told me about the things that were most important to them, the things that were sacred. But the newspaper industry was changing and few papers could afford to have an army of speciality reporters. So, I moved to cover the suburbs where, as luck would have it, they have plenty of religion, too. Eventually, children came into the picture. One by birth and another two months later by foster care/adoption. I struggled to chase breaking news and be home at a decent hour, so I made the move to what we journalists call the dark side: I took a job in public relations. (Don't worry. I work for a great non-profit, so it's not dark at all.) When I gave my notice at the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, the executive editor asked me to consider writing a column on a freelance basis. She didn't want the newspaper to lose touch with its religious sources, and she still wanted consistent faith coverage. I was terrified. It took me about 10 months to get back to her with a solid plan and some sample columns. And so it began, this journey of opening up my heart to strangers.
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Iím an introvert by nature, but my 6-year-old Benjamin is a party planner. A gift giver. A welcomer.
When we have people coming over, he waits for them on the porch. When they try to leave, he always asks if they can stay just a little bit longer Ė perhaps spend the night?
He made, and wrapped, my Christmas present in late October.† And judging by how quickly he has gone through the most recent bag of pipe cleaners, heís probably already started on gifts for the rest of the family.
In the past, Iíve mailed beaded necklaces to relatives in Oklahoma and shared his finger-painted bookmarks with co-workers and readers of my column. Every time I get to the end of another book of stamps, I smile. Another 20 cards, drawings and gifts. Another 20 chances for Benjamin to connect and show his love.
Every stamp is worth it because you canít put a price on a gift given out of joy.
Even if a gift is not your favorite color, not your size or just not your kind of thing, it means something to be remembered, to be thought of. It means something to be reminded that Christmas Ė the miraculous birth in a barn Ė is a gift for each of us. And if Benjamin can do that for people at 6, then surely I can do that at 41.
Instead of worrying what people might think of my little house with unruly laundry, maybe I could offer the gift of a home cooked meal around a lively dinner table. Maybe I could watch a little less Netflix and spend a little more time sending out cards and letters of my own. Maybe I could train myself to seek out the ones who are hard to see: The ones who look fine on the surface but who are flailing underneath to keep from drowning.
Maybe I could learn to give like Benjamin does, with arms and heart wide open.
Looking for gifts that welcome?
  • Some friends and I hosted a craft party in November so our kids could make gifts and ornaments Ė and welcome the joy of being givers themselves. We started by creating a Pinterest board of ideas. Maybe youíll find some inspiration there.
  • You can welcome an entire community of artisans through buying fair trade items or bolster a familyís ability to provide for themselves by donating to programs like Heifer International.
  • For those on your Christmas list, why not welcome them with time? Give your grandmother an invitation to monthly dinners at your home and take your nephew on a day trip. Or, what about writing a letter?
  • If youíd like something more tangible, maybe welcome a loved one with a ring or charm inscribed with scripture or a wallet that makes memorizing verses easier Ė and more chic?
  • And for the kids? Try a book or toy that reinforces how much God loves them† — how he wants to welcome all of us. Toys called Ani-Mates are new this year. They tell Bible stories and offer animation when you hook them up to smart phones. I was skeptical (as I am with all talking toys), but my two little guys, ages 3 and 6, seem to really like it. The vocabulary is more suited to the 6-year-old but the 3-year-old did learn that James was an apostle, not just a character on Thomas! I did a quick amateur video so you could see for yourself if itís a good fit.
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