Storyfull gifts

As we contribute even in some small way of making the world a better place, we have the gift of then being able to live in that better place. on background of bouquet of flowers being handed through a fence as a gift

I have everything I need, and many things I would want.

So…knowing my birthday was coming up, and knowing the Junior Tribe Members might ask me what I would want for my birthday, Husband and I cooked up a plan:

I would ask for stories for my birthday.

Several weeks ago, we gave each person in our family an envelope with $100.

We asked each of them to spend the money to make the world a better place in whatever way they chose. That’s it. No further guidance.

Then at my birthday supper, they would give me the gift of telling a story of what they did with the cash. How they made the world a better place.

We did this so:

  • The kids would have an opportunity to bless someone with goodness. Win!
  • Someone…local or abroad, friend or stranger, an individual or group…would get a boost of some sort. Double win!
  • I would get what I love best in life.  Great stories!  Triple win!

We have weekly family supper at our house. We do our best to work around work shifts, ball games, and volunteer work to get the whole crew together at the table. Around the time of each person’s birthday, we have birthday family supper.

At the birthday supper, the birthday person gets to choose the menu of main course and dessert. I make whatever they want. They get the special birthday plate, and of course, we sing to them. Family supper is a happy sort of chaos with multiple conversations, people coming late and leaving early, and lots of laughter.

It’s fun to be together weekly, and everyone makes the effort to be there.

We are two-families-who-are-also-one-family–and so family supper itself is a small miracle.

One more gift I don’t take for granted.

Yesterday was my family birthday supper.  My choice–a back yard picnic supper. We roasted smokies over the fire pit in the back yard, loaded them into buns, and piled them high with bacon, chili and cheese. YUM! Salads and potato chips.  And my favorite: Jeannie’s cake for dessert!

birthday supper for Carolyn Klassen with storyfull gifts for Conexus Counselling

Then, it was story time!

The stories were beautiful…thoughtful and kind.  And so varied:

  • The one whose wife delivers babies here in Winnipeg went online to donate for the safe delivery and immunizations for a baby overseas to ensure the wellbeing and health of mom and babe. Isn’t that thoughtful?
  • Husband put deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, granola bar, juice box and a Tim Horton’s coffee card in a ziplock bag.  He put the bags in the work trucks for he and his employees to give to homeless people as they drive throughout the city. Isn’t that fun?Sample bag of items in bag for folks who are panhandling. Used for storyfull gifts blog about generosity for Conexus Counselling
  • Remarkably, great minds think alike…completely independently, a son put similar items in a bag with the same idea…to give needed resources to folks in their neighborhood corners who ask for help. Isn’t that wonderful!
  • One daughter in law’s mom has befriended two little girls on a northern reserve through accompanying them to summer camp. Her mom’s church helps to support the breakfast program on this reserve. Their favourite thing to eat at the school is homemade banana bread.
    So my daughter in law made $100 worth of banana bread for a northern reservation’s school breakfast program. A pilot will fly up the 20 or so frozen loaves when he does his regular run to deliver them. Isn’t that a yummy boat load labor of love?
  • Another one wanted to show gratitude to friends and family who have been supportive to him during his childhood.  He purchased items for care packages and attached notes of gratitude. He expressed his thanks for their contribution to his life. He dropped them off at their houses on his bike. Isn’t that caring?
  • One son met the same fellow, a panhandler, Dale, at the base of a city bridge on his way to the job site each morning. They would chat briefly during the red light every morning and one day he asked him his favorite restaurant. The next day, he took Dale to VJ’s Drive In for lunch…and then out again a few more times to enjoy a meal together. With the last $40, this son purchased some groceries for him. Isn’t that brave to invest in the life of a stranger new friend?
  • The pastor who married Husband and I has been a family friend for years. He’s great…and gives of himself ceaselessly and generously to others. One son dropped off a couple of bottles of wine anonymously at his home. (Shhhh…no one tell him!)  The note tucked in with the wine said to save the wine for hard days. He wanted the pastor treat himself to fine sipping on a day when he could use some care. He wanted the pastor to remember that others realize the personal cost he pays to serve the community and appreciate his efforts. Isn’t that sensitive?
  • Another daughter in law gave money to a art coop with Sí Fairtrade Fashion. Artesania Palopo in rural Guatamala. Her friend is passionate about making this project sucessful:
    Artesania Palopo is a cooperative in San Antonio La Laguna comprised of fifteen Indigenous weavers in rural Guatemala. Their mission is to provide opportunities for widowed and abandoned women so their children can continue to go to school They want to continue to grow their cooperative so they can work with more women in San Antonio

    picture of San Antonio women in rural Guatemala who make headbands. Used for storyfull gifts blog on Conexus Counselling on Generosity.

    These women upcycle material to make fashionable head bands for purchase.  The $100 is going towards branding. They will design and manufacture professional looking tags/labelling. That will make the head bands more internationally recognized and increase their value. Isn’t it brilliant to support the passion of a good friend and women who want to educate their children all at once?

  • I couldn’t resist…I wanted to play too! So, I also gave myself an envelope with $100 and asked a friend who helps lotsa people if he knew of a need I could fulfill. He knew a family of new Canadians from The Congo (via many years in a Tanzanian camp) that have lived in Canada for 14 months. They live in an apartment. This family longed to grow tomatoes like they did back home in Africa. Who wouldn’t want little pieces of home in a new country? Their landlord gave permission. I roped Husband into going with me to the lumber yard and then to the garden center. Their host couple that has helped them with transition to Canadian life met us at the apartment.

    Collage of creating a raised bed for tomatoes with family who lives in apartment for storyfull gifts blog on generosity for Conexus CounsellingWe hung out with the family and created a raised garden bed. Husband made the wooden box, and then the children giggled with delight as they helped us shovel the dirt into the box. The mother dug holes with the shovel like with the comfort of having done it often.  She helped the children plant the tomato plants.  I brought along a few pansies too. Doesn’t every garden bed need a few beautiful flowers? We aren’t quite sure where carrots are going to spring up given that the 5 year old emptied the seed packet at a moment when no one was looking! The kids were singing as they watered. It was a great afternoon.

There have been many times in my life, when others have been generous to me:

The memories of these stories of people’s generosity in my life actually strengthen me. We are all stronger for having been helped.  And who of us hasn’t needed from, and then benefitted from help? Why wouldn’t we want to share in the fun of helping others?

We are wired for connection. Generosity connects us.

Generosity connects us to those who could use a hand. Being generous is often a paying it forward of the generosity of others in our lives in times past, or even now.

Community does best when choose to see beyond ourselves and to the needs of others. Knowing that others are also doing that for us.

  • opening the door for another at the mall
  • helping a person load the groceries into their car on the way to yours
  • saying, “Rough evening, huh? We’ve all been there.” in a sympathetic, understanding way to the woman whose child is having a meltdown at the park

It doesn’t have to be about spending money…a spirit of generosity connects us closer to others.  And let’s face it, we belong to each other.  We share this little planet of ours and we do best if we share our toys in this global sandbox.

Generosity, it seems to me, is by its very nature is also a form of selfishness.

As we contribute even in some small way of making the world a better place, we have the gift of then being able to live in that better place.

I will remember the storyfull gifts. These stories may not have changed the whole world, but they did change my world.

4 Comments

  • Cathy Dyck

    LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS! on a smaller scale there have been advent seasons when we have passed out starbucks gift cards and challenged ourselves to bless someone in need of a coffee and/or a good conversation. Also – we have a red plate – and all of our kids have one for their households to celebrate birthdays and any other special events/accomplishments/acknowledgements. Thanks for stirring my heart Carolyn!!!

    • Carolyn Klassen

      Thanx, Cathy! Your Starbucks card is a great idea too! I’m going to remember that.

  • allan peters

    I heard part of your sharing this on CJOB this afternoon- between appointments. What struck me was how your Christian world view was accepted in a positive way. I think this was/is because you presented a non-judgemental, loving and caring way to interact with friends and family and impact the world around us. Thank you for leading the thinking on air in a way that lifts everyone up.

    • Carolyn Klassen

      Thanx, Allan! It does feel like a remarkable privilege that I have been given to be able to speak about grace, kindness, authenticity, vulnerability and relationship week after week to people who listen in. To be welcomed to speak into people’s lives feels like such a cool gift in my life. Greg asked me to talk about this project!

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