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I actually wrote this post several years ago, but never got it published and then last year it felt solicitous to share when my husband was without a job. This year, I was once again prompted to think along these lines when needs in our neighborhood arose.

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This is the time of year that we especially think about giving. Our attention is also more drawn to give to those in need. Hopefully it isn’t something we only do at Christmas. The other day I was thinking about how we give to those who are in need. We have the option to toss coins or a few dollars in a red kettle {nothing wrong with that}, we can send someone we know cash or a gift card {that’s great too}, but what really caused me to stop and think was this. Do we give in these ways to alleviate our conscience or do we give because we really desire to love and serve others? Do we give to or serve the less fortunate {poor} without really thinking about what would genuinely bless them the most or giving thought to what would functionally serve them best? Do we spend time praying about how God would desire us to show care and charity to others? As I as thinking about this topic, I began to wonder about some strategic ideas for giving thoughtful gifts to those in need.

Those in need of financial assistance
This first category may seem like a no-brainer. If a family needs money to pay bills, buy groceries or keep their utilities on the obvious answer is to give them some cash or write a check. But I wonder, is that what would really serve them the best? Often when money is so tight and extra money comes in, it can be difficult to decide what exactly to put that money towards.

Gift Certificates aren’t just for the mall anymore.

I have known many different people with varying difficult life circumstances over the years. Blessing them whether in name or anonymously looks different for each situation. So I decided to break down ways to bless or serve those we may know who are in need, into two categories: {1} Those who can’t meet their own financial necessities, {2} Those who have enough to cover their necessities, but have no extra.
  • Did you know that you can often pay someone’s utility bill? Not all utility companies have the ability to do this, but I checked with several in my area and the local electric company has applications on-line for gift certificates. Your payment for the certificate is directly credited to the account of your recipient and the certificate itself is simply notification that a payment has been made on their behalf. {The recipient’s name and correct address are of utmost importance in this case.} You can also give the gift certificate anonymously if you like. One other utility company I spoke with didn’t have anything set up like this yet, but said they would be considering a way to enable people to give in this manner.

 

  • I also spoke with a telephone company. If you give the phone number and the account holder’s name {if you know it}, they will allow you to put a certain amount of money to that account. They won’t tell you any personal information including the account balance, but say if you give more than what is due, that account will then have a credit. All it takes it a phone call to whatever utility/phone/internet company you desire, to check and see what/if any options there are to pay someone’s bill. You might be surprised how happy they will be to help you help someone in need.

 

  • Gas cards and gift cards to local grocery stores are great gift options too.

 

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Here’s another thought and while it’s specific here to my second category, it definitely pertains to the first one as well. Those who have no money or just enough money to take care of the basics, often have very narrow lives because a lack of finances restricts them dramatically. Practical blessings are indeed blessings, but don’t forget that perhaps what their heart, mind and souls need is an opportunity for something other than the practical. I think in this category a gift of the practical combined with something just-for-fun is the ultimate felt need’ blessing.
Those who can pay the bills, but have no extra

Sometimes “fun” isn’t in the budget.

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I think that people in this second category are often the ones who are forgotten about. These are those who are able to pay their bills; their utilities aren’t being turned off, they are able to put food on their table.   But. That’s. It.   There is no extra money for fun, no money for frills. Maybe they haven’t been able to update their wardrobe for years because that just isn’t a priority in the budget. I have known several families in my adult years who have been in this situation. I’ve also seen some of these families blessed by the thoughtful generosity of those around them.  I remember the heartbreak I felt in that particular situation to not be in a place to bless them financially, but I also remember the conviction that I could bless them by having them in my home for an evening of fun. I saw the tole that their strained budget had on them emotionally and spiritually. They had faith for God’s provision, but they needed to have some fun too. Our family has been on the receiving end in this category in the past and we were so thankful for these fun blessings.

  • Movie theater gift cards. These are a  great option for a couple whose dates are budget limited. You could also include a homemade gift certificate for an evening of babysitting. The couple gets to pick a movie of their choice and know that they have childcare already covered.

 

  • Salon or massage gift cards are a huge blessing. Getting a hair cut or color are often things we take for granted, but to someone else it may be a luxury they must live without for the time being. Maybe even think about adding some extra $$ to a gift card for these services to cover a tip.

 

  • A gift basket of small, fun Advent gifts. When we were first married and living across the country from all of our family, my Aunt and cousins sent us a care package of Advent gifts {1 gift for each day from December first through Christmas Day}. The gifts are generally small {you don’t need to break the bank} and have a Scripture verse included. That care package was very encouraging and meant a lot to us that our family had spent time finding fun and thoughtful things for us. It really helped brighten a really dark period in our lives. Not sure what to include in a gift like this? Think about the recipient’s likes in the areas of color, texture, smell, treats, etc. Maybe you don’t know the recipients well enough to answer those questions. . . then perhaps include things that you especially like with a little note of why it’s a favorite of yours. That way they know that your gift is intentional and not just a basket of re-gifts from last year’s gift exchange.
So here is my conviction this Christmas. We all can find someone in our life, perhaps a neighbor, a friend, a relative, a coworker or perhaps a shelter or orphanage that needs something we can give. Even if our budget is tighter than normal, we can probably find a way to bless someone with less. We live in such a prosperous culture; a prosperous nation that even in our own state of “poverty”, we are likely to find someone with needs that we can meet and let us not forget that what they may need most is for us to take time to share the Gospel with them. 
So keep your eyes and heart open. The needs are plentiful and the creative options are endless to give a gift that will really bless someone this Christmas.

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Do you have any creative ideas of how to bless those in need? Or maybe you have a story of how someone else blessed you in a time of need. I’d love to hear about it; leave me a comment and share it with all of us!

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