My wife frequently hears this line from others as she is handed a gift that she cannot eat because of dietary restrictions. She's always courteous, appreciative, and smiles as she thanks the well-meaning individual. (This is an example of how she's a better person than I am.)
Oh, I get when people who don't know about her dietary restrictions give her something she cannot eat. What I don't understand is the people who know and still give her gifts she has to immediately re-gift to me. If it is the thought that counts, the giver who knows, and still gives this kind of gift, has utterly failed.
It seems to me that the "thought" is "I am giving everyone gifts but I'm not thinking about the individuals to whom I am giving." In this case, that person not being considered is my wife.
"Well, maybe Tim can eat it."
Just as my wife is not considered by the knowing gift-giver, children are too often viewed as objects of our actions rather than as people worthy of our consideration. Particularly at this time of year children are the focus of retailers' marketing campaigns. Children are manipulated into whining for that toy that from which retailers and corporations seek to profit. If the children recruited by advertisers are not persuasive enough, the ad campaign is focused directly at parents. Giving the desired gift to your child will prove your worth as a parent. It will buy your child's love. It will alleviate your guilt.
The impact of this for adults who can afford the primo gift is often debt and temporary release of guilt. Unfortunately, those families who cannot afford to purchase the prized item, feel even more guilty.
"Well, maybe the corporations can profit from it."
Too many twenty-first century Christians give the message that in order to receive the gift of God's love, one must meet specific requirements. You must be straight, preferably white. Being male also supposedly brings you closer to God's favor.
Some Christians even espouse a theology of wealth. In other words, God rewards the worthy with earthly wealth. In this human-constructed theology, white men especially those among the one-percent, are the most beloved by God. Why else would they be the most powerful in our culture? Why else would Congress argue over unemployment benefits, payroll tax deductions for the middle class, and food benefits for the poor while extending "temporary" tax cuts for the wealthiest among us? Why else would we have millions of people, many of them veterans, living on the street while politicians receive huge sums of money for their campaigns from corporate interests?
"Well, at least the 1% can have a government that serves their interests."
In the biblical stories, an adult Jesus shows an affinity for the poor and other outcasts of his ancient society. He taught about the importance of giving others that which they need: healing, hope, and food. In short, Jesus practiced radically loving, gracious hospitality. He and his disciples even relied on the hospitality of strangers as they traveled teaching and spreading what would later be called the Good News. That Good News is that God loves all of us extravagantly whether we can eat sugar or not, whether we can afford the latest toy for our child or not, and whether we are employed or have a home or not.
In our culture, we give too much to those who already have too much. We give leftovers to those who are without. We argue whether others are worthy of receiving food stamps suggesting they must take drug tests to prove their worth. We don't give the beggar on the street corner a dollar because they might misuse it while we throw away money on the latest gadget.
As a country, we send the riot squads into parks to remove Occupy protesters who dare to point out the economic injustice rampant in our culture. We tolerate Wall Street crime and nine years of pre-emptive war in Iraq while becoming angry that a park is occupied by those who don't necessarily look like us. We allow our police to round up the houseless to keep them from sleeping in a public space when our cities have a shortage of shelters.
Jesus healed without condition. He offered hope and a new path to the newly healed. Jesus did not require a urinalysis before sitting down with the outcast for a meal. Jesus gave up his life preaching the Good News that all of us are loved by God. Jesus gave up his life threatening the status quo by looking into the eyes of others regardless of their stock portfolio. Within each of us is the spark of the Divine.
Each of us deserve the dignity of being considered. As we head into the Christian celebration of Christ's birth, may we each reflect the Divine presence for one another. If we give a physical gift, may it be made or purchased with the receiver's needs in mind. (Yes, that means don't give a sugar cookie to a diabetic.) More importantly, may we respond to the need that each of us has to be recognized as the amazing, wonderful person we were lovingly created to be. May we give of ourselves in presence, in listening, and in loving one another.
God of Extravagant Love & Patience,
Encourage us to seek you,
in all whom we meet.
Cause us to be generous,
as we give of ourselves,
the best of ourselves,
and as we share material gifts.
May we be the people you call us to be,
as we respond to your love,
with healing kindness,
with a humble spirit seeking justice for your world.
With your loving guidance,
may we one day live as the one-hundred percent.
May we mutually respect and love one another,
that one day we all embrace our interconnectedness,
sharing the abundance you have provided among us.