Mary: Charity – Much More Than Change in a Bucket

The early-onset of all things Christmas means its time to start carrying change to add to the  bell-ringer’s bucket outside of my local Kroger.

The school where I teach and the one my children attend have each already circulated memos about the families we will help this season.   My nineteen homeroom students arrived today with canned veggies, cookie mixes, and gift cards for turkeys.  I love that while I help my children write their Christmas lists I’m also reading over the wish lists of those whose Christmases I hope to make a little more merry.

I just don’t want to stop there.

In a freshman theology unit covering the more-descriptive Greek words for love, my students and I have been talking phile, eros, and agape.  They easily recognize the warped message our culture feeds us about love as a passive feeling rather than an active choice. And that the highest form of love (charity), requires more than a handout, it calls for selflessness. Our discussion served as my much needed reminder that I don’t deserve kudos for dropping change in the bell-ringer’s bucket. That its too easy to feel good about a couple cans of cranberry sauce thrown in the pile or a Barbie purchased for a child in need.  And its much too convenient to check off another holiday task (helped the less fortunate, phew) and pat myself on the back.

This week I came across this article about bringing children along to shop for the school holiday drive. In it, Laura Kreutzer writes of her daughter’s struggles down the tempting toy aisles while shopping for other children. “I know that her behavior is age-appropriate for a newly-minted seven-year old”, she notes,  “however, I have realized that my husband and I need to do a better job of instilling a sense of charity in our daughter.”  I think she’s right. I think we could all use a refresher on true charity, real love of neighbor.

This holiday season, in the midst of shopping the sales and cooking up new Pinterest-inspired recipes, I am striving to give charitably, in the truest sense of the word.  I am pushing myself to stand face-to-face with those I am helping, to hear their stories, to meet them where they’re at.  To lift them up in prayer.

In response to the question Kreutzer poses to her readers:”when do you start teaching charity to your children?”  I humbly suggest that nomatter their age, we should start that lesson today.  Let’s instill in them an understanding of love by ourselves acting out of love.   Let’s show them selflessness by thinking first of the common good. Let’s teach them charity by embracing our neighbor.

Let’s make sure they know that love is so more than change in a bucket.

About Mary Gates

Mary Gates is a wife, mother to four kids (ages two to seven), and high school theology teacher. In addition to marriage, motherhood, and teaching, she most enjoys coffee and a good run. Mary blogs about the blessed chaos of family life at

14. November 2012 by
Categories: Faith, Family, Parenting, Values | Leave a comment

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