God Loves a Cheerful Giver
The following is a Reflective Narrative by 6th Grade Cross Schools student, Imisioluwa Banigbe
Life is about others, not just about yourself. As a child, I didn’t believe that. No child is inclined to believe that they are not the center of their universe. Children’s lives are usually all about themselves and not others and they are focused on getting more and more stuff or the simplified version, more toys. I was no different and I was not content to be grateful for the endless amounts of things my parents did for me. Gifts were like oxygen to me as a child. In this way, I was typical of a child my age, not grateful enough and as spoiled as ever.
As a direct consequence of my inward looking attitude, gift-giving seasons were naturally the worst seasons for me. All I would think about was presents. In school, my mind was taken over by thoughts of Christmas and how close I was to Christmas Day. Or I would be thinking one minute closer to my birthday, one-minute closer to gifts… that’s all I thought about. Despite my constant habit of prevaricating, deceiving, not studying when I was supposed to (the list goes on and on), in December, I found a way of staying on the nice list. Gift-giving seasons have a way of giving you the idea that presents are all that matter. Fortunately, my parents would not give into it. They constantly lectured me about God giving us the best gift of all, Jesus. They told me that Christmas was the celebration of the Messiah’s birth and that on birthdays we should enjoy the experience rather than all the material things that are traditionally given. Despite their attempts, the only word that seemed to go into my head was “presents.” The wise men gave Jesus gifts, God gave us an amazing gift, so it follows that I should get a gift. The perfect logic, for a child. The idea of not receiving and giving instead didn’t sit well with me; like oil and water do not mix, giving and I didn't mix either.
Regardless of my strong resentment about possibly not getting a gift on my birthday or on Christmas Day, I did open up to the idea of giving to other people. I remember about five years ago we were in London, England and the usual gifts on Christmas day were routinely under the glimmering tree. On Christmas Day, I mercilessly tore apart the wrapping paper, eager to see what I was getting. As I pulled the wrapping paper apart, my mouth dropped open in awe. It was the Leapfrog tablet I had been begging my mom to get me all year. I turned to look at my mom and dad and I realized something I didn’t understand at the time. They had spent their money on me and not themselves, they hadn’t received anything for Christmas and they were smiling brighter than the sun itself, my joy was their thanks and delight. I watched their teeth shine in the sun while I wondered: Could giving be better than receiving? That day left a permanent impact on me. I silently made a promise to myself that when we got back to Ghana I would try a new approach and give to someone in need.
Later back in Ghana, we were driving to church one and I noticed the usual beggars on the roadside. I had brought my piggy bank with me. We usually just drove past them but that day I wanted to give to someone. When the light went red and the car stopped, and I rolled down the window and started handing out coins. Like a moth is drawn to a flame, these homeless and poor approached the car in the hope of receiving money. Their faces looked shocked as I handed them money. “Here,” I said, still rather begrudgingly giving the money away. They said something in a language I didn’t understand so I asked the driver to translate for me. “They are saying thank you, God bless you,” he said. Their smiles were so bright that I was afraid that I would be blinded by their joy.
I felt something new bubbling inside of me. Was it sadness, that I had given away all my money? Was it anger that the money I had "earned" had been given away, or just annoyance at the noise the impatient drivers stuck behind us were making, as they blasted their horns at our car to get moving. No, in the face of those strong feelings, something was stronger. It was joy at seeing other people happy that made me happy. I remember that from that day onward and every I made a habit of giving to the street people as we rode to church when we got the chance. My actions changed my experience mornings, as I tried to spread kindness to people around me. If it weren't for those smiles on the faces of my parents earlier that year, I don't think I would have had the courage to do what I did and to become the person I am now.
Now I know that life is more about others and not just about yourself. I am also happy to say that giving is better than receiving. My joy continues to improve as I practice giving to others and not just focusing on myself. After all, the Bible says:“It is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35)