She opened her trunk. It was filled with bags of toys. We reached in, took them out, and carried them to the police cruisers that were lined up along the sidewalk. It was a miserable, rainy day, but that didn’t stop the people from coming out. By noon, we were already filling our fourth cruiser in the annual Stuff-a-Cruiser event.
A steady stream of cars pulled into the parking lot. They came with children who gleefully handed us a toy. We had a Santa Claus motorcycle convoy drop in. It included at least 20 Santas, and they all had gifts. One car had a reindeer in the back seat. On second thought, it could have been a dog with antlers. It was cute, though.
What struck me the most was the fact that everyone who donated a toy had a big smile on their face. Joy filled the air. Smiles and laughter abounded. You’d never know that we were still struggling in the middle of a pandemic. It was almost as if God had lifted the cloud for a little while so that we could return to normal again.
The more I thought about it, the more it struck me that the old adage is true: It is more blessed to give than to receive. Being generous makes us feel good. That feeling is called “giver’s glow.” Stephen G. Post, of Stony Brook University, says that research shows that when we’re generous, our brains release several chemicals that give us a sense of joy and peace.
It makes sense, theologically speaking, because the Bible tells us we were created in the image of God. God, by nature, is extremely generous. This generosity flows out of His love. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved ... that He gave ....” When we give, we are more completely living out the image of God that is within us.
Doing something for someone else is a great way to fight the feeling of stagnation that has covered our world over the last 20 months. As a matter of fact, Sam Read of NBC 10 News captured people performing little acts of charity throughout the state. Nearly everyone she interviewed was smiling and feeling overjoyed.
In her “Show Us Something Good” segments, Sam highlighted people doing things to help others in need. She featured volunteers building a school bus stop for a boy in a wheelchair, a local farmer delivering produce to schools, boys shoveling snow at the hospital and a store owner who delivered clothing to homeless shelters.
As we enter the new year, why not make it a point to follow the star and be more like the Wise Men in the Biblical story. Reach out and help a neighbor. Let that be your gift to the babe of Bethlehem. Do something good for someone else. I can almost guarantee it will come back to you as a blessing. It’s one way to share God’s love and bring a glimpse of the kingdom of God right here to where we live.
The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.