Today’s post is inspired by the Christmas Gift Drive spearheaded by my sister Rina, who worked with Rush de Silva – a teacher at Rongomai School – and her friends from the Upper Room Church, Newmarket.
On December 12 – after months of gathering gift donations from friends – my sister, a few volunteers and I visited Rongomai in Manukau City. The school has a decile rating of 1, which means that it is located in a poor section of the city. Meeting the kids was priceless – their smiles, thanksgiving and warm hugs are treasures that will stay with us forever. And because I love lists, I came up with this one hoping it moves you to give cheerfully and wholeheartedly today.
#1 Giving is good for your health
An article on Oprah.com links acts of altruism to scientific evidence of improved health – think increased antibodies in the system, less chronic pain, and catching fewer colds. Bless you!
#2 It breaks your heart wide open
Last year, Rina and her kids visited Rongomai for the first time. My sister did it to teach her kids (Faith was 9 and Jake was 6 then) about generosity. They took along gifts of small toys and lollies for 20 kids only to realise one class had 30 students. It broke Rina’s heart that not everyone took home a present, so she vowed to return a year later with enough presents for at least one whole class.
#3 Giving is infectious
Rina shared her story and vision for the Rongomai Christmas Gift Drive with her circles of influence. Her enthusiasm for the kids was so contagious that friends sent over sacks of gifts for the girls and boys. From the original plan of two sections of Year 6 children, the overwhelming response made Rina think: “What if we could give every child in the school?”
#4 God provides for good causes
Since Typhoon Haiyan happened right before the Christmas Gift Drive commenced, I withheld from soliciting donations from friends who had generously given to the victims of the super typhoon. I rang Rina a few days before our school visit, worried we were running out of time. “If we want to give everyone, maybe we can downsize our vision from a gift sack per child to just one gift per child?” Oh, me of little faith! I was doubtful we could gather enough to provide for the 210 students. Before we hung up the phone, Rina and I prayed for provision for the children. A few hours later, she emailed me back — her friend Maddie said that the toy company Lego wanted to donate to the school drive.
“How many do you want?” she asked. Rina timidly thought of asking for just 20 pieces. But then, she took a chance. “Would it be cheeky to ask for every kid?” she asked. Two days later, Lego delivered 250 toys! So much more than was expected! Not only did the kids of Rongomai get their Lego toys, there was an overflow of Lego toys to share with kids at nearby Flatbush School. It reminded me of one of my favourite Bible stories as a child, when God multiplied the 5 loaves of bread and 5 fish to feed the 5,000. Apparently, he can do that with toys too!
#5 Giving sets off a domino effect of good
The children at Rongomai didn’t expect us to show up on their last day of school, and were pleasantly surprised to receive their Christmas presents. I appreciated how Rush reminded the children about the gift of Jesus – the true reason for the season and also our reason for being there. The gesture sparked a spirit of thanksgiving among the kids, who generously expressed their appreciation through warm hugs and the brightest of smiles. One of the teachers even invited us to his classroom, so that the kids could perform a song to thank us.
Some of the volunteers brought their kids along, and these boys and girls vowed they wanted to do this again next year. I am confident that many seeds of generosity and altruism have been sown in the hearts of the children (both the givers and the given) and that they will one day bear fruit, producing a generation of cheerful givers. That, to me, is a gift that keeps on giving.
God gave the greatest gift of all – His love wrapped up in His Son, Jesus. God’s love changes everything and everyone it touches. It protects and breathes life and purpose into every minute of every day.” Mary Southerland, motivational speaker, www.marysoutherland.com