I have showed you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

— Paul, the Apostle

As I get older in this life, it becomes clearer to me just how important giving is. Oh, it’s pretty simple to give things to people, but that’s not the kind of giving I’m talking about. And, it’s pretty simple to give a few bucks to folks in need, but that’s not what I’m referring to, either.

I’m talking about the kind of giving that can’t be measure and that changes lives.

It took me longer than it ever should have to understand the genuine importance, and joy, that comes from investing in the lives of people rather than being self-absorbed. Jesus was the best at it. He was the ultimate giver yet had very little by way of material possessions. Matter of fact, Jesus was born in a borrowed manger, lived his life on the road, frequently slept in beds of friends and strangers and He died then was raised from a borrowed tomb. Even so, Jesus gave people the very essence of what they needed to live a fulfilling life – Himself. As I consider my own purpose, I need to take note of not only what I’m giving but how I’m giving it. Jesus is the perfect example of both.

This time of year compels all sorts of emotions. Most of us love Christmas music, the decorations, memorable moments with family and friends, parties and the fun of getting and giving gifts. It’s likely to be the favorite time of year for many of us. It is for me. But that’s not always the case for others. The truth is, this could very well be the most painful time of year for some. Loneliness, emptiness and sorrow may overwhelm people and the rest of us not have a clue. Some experience the pain associated with missing a loved one or not having a family nearby with which to celebrate. Others may lack resources and some may be in the throes of illness or depression. Usually, these folks don’t make it apparent that they are sad or lonely and, if we’re not careful, we’ll miss any sign that might make it apparent.

Gifts come and go but taking the time to simply sit and listen to someone can change a life. So can sharing a meal or providing the kind of companionship that comforts a broken heart or uneasy soul. Imagine the power of your smile to someone who has lost the ability to have one and who is desperate for the chance to laugh and love. Imagine too the hope someone might feel because you took the time to take a walk with them or to take them shopping.

In the hurry and flurry of the Christmas season, it is common for many of us to forget about what really matters. We get so caught up in all the activities that we overlook those who simply want and need us to stop and to be kind, to make eye contact, to call, visit or write. I especially think of the elderly who may get lost in the shuffle and thereby feel forgotten. Jesus was the Master at recognizing those who needed Him as He walked this earth even if the need came in the form of a plaintiff look or a desperate whisper. We can be like Jesus. We can. It’s just a matter of what matters to us … not just at Christmas but all year. So, may all of us stop long enough today or tomorrow or this week to make sure we aren’t missing an opportunity to change someone’s life.

It may be the best gift we’ll ever give.