Not spoiled — Blessed!

This is the time of the year that most of us think about getting and giving stuff. We make the list and we check it twice. We don’t want to disappoint or be disappointed by those who we love. We need to find the latest video or toy, iPhone X, Coach bag, Uggs boots, or any other item that we know we just can’t live without and that will truly make us happy — at least for this year, or month, or week or day!

Then we also hear about those who are going without. We see that our parishes sponsor Giving Tree projects or collect food and money for those less fortunate. We have a food pantry on the UMass Dartmouth Campus to help our students, faculty and staff who are in need. We see people drop a dollar into those red pots staffed by those wonderful volunteers outside of the mall. We feel for those people who don’t have the stuff. We want to help — we really do — some day.

As a young person in today’s world, you are pulled in many directions. You’re told that you need and should want stuff and you’re told by others that you shouldn’t want stuff. The difficulty is that you get a mixed message. So whom do you believe? It is most unfortunate, for most, that the “you need and should want stuff” message is usually stronger and better received than the “you shouldn’t want stuff” message. 

I’ve admitted to you all in the past that I have a lot of stuff. I’ve got the latest computer, the newest car, the house, the “stuff” of life. My daughters and their husbands, and my grandchildren have a ton of stuff, too. We are not lacking anything. Christmas, until a few years back, was another opportunity to add to the stuff. Oh yeah! Family would gather round the tree with dozens and dozens of presents underneath. Sometimes, Christmas gift-opening went on for hours. We wanted our children and our grandchildren to have everything! Their aunt, uncle, and grandparent wanted them to have everything too. And believe me, they got everything!

However, I recall as if it were yesterday, an important point in our lives. One day, my eldest daughter (who was young at the time) was told by a friend that she was spoiled because of all of the stuff she had. I’ll never forget when she turned to the person and said, “I’m not spoiled — I’m blessed!” Wow, what wisdom from the mouth of babes! And she was right. We are blessed. We have been given so much. It was at that point that we realized how much we had to give back. 

Over the years since that day, we have made an effort as a family to give back. We no longer exchange dozens of gifts, but rather give of ourselves to others and to each other. Finally, several years ago, for the first time, we cut back on gifts to other family members and offer those funds toward the needs of others. 

Of course, we all still want “stuff.” That new car, that new iPad Pro, but as long as it doesn’t take top priority in our lives, as long as we don’t “worship” the stuff as more important that anything else, as long as the stuff doesn’t stand between us and others, especially our God; as long as we know that we’re “blessed” and that we work hard to help others, we know we’re OK with our God. 

Our family anthem, that we all adhere to, is taken from the Gospel of Luke 12:48: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” We know that the more blessed we are, the more we’re expected to give back. Sometimes that is a daunting thought, but every day we strive to follow what God asks of us. He says that if He blesses us with anything — health, good families, or a roof over our heads — then we in turn must also think of others.

Give some thought to where you are this Christmas season. The joy of giving and receiving is part of our lives. But remember, that it is not the only thing that is important. Christmas is the time to remember and celebrate the greatest gift ever given — the gift of God’s Own Son. We’ve received that awesome Gift. We are truly blessed. By that one Gift alone we have been given much. As a result of that one Gift alone, much is therefore expected of us. What more could we need or want? So what are you giving this Christmas?

Anchor columnist Frank Lucca is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Fall River, a youth minister at St. Dominic’s Parish in Swansea and St. George Parish in Westport, and a campus minister at UMass Dartmouth. He is married to his wife of 39 years, Kristine, and the father of two daughters and their husbands, and three grandsons. So blessed! 

Comments, ideas or suggestions? Please email him at DeaconFrankLucca@comcast.net

We wish you a most joyous Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts