On Friday, I suggested that we all need to be converted, and start living in the Kingdom of God instead of in the kingdom of the world this Advent. I warned you that I was coming up with a list of suggestions of things you can do to begin. Then I too Saint Nicholas Day off, except for squabbles on Twitter. Now I’m back with my list.
I like having a list like this, not because it takes the place of being attentive to ways we can live in the Kingdom of God in our day-to-day life, but because it helps me to be in a mindset where I notice needs and meet them instead of thinking only of myself. I’ve seen some people write one suggestion each on several little cards and put them all in a jar, and then pick one out every day to be their project of the day for Advent. That’s the reason I’m putting down 18 suggestions for the next eighteen days til Christmas. But I don’t expect anyone to do them all. Some of these suggestions involve money and some don’t, because I know we don’t all always have money.
1. Does your grocery store have one of those boxes collecting food for a food pantry? Grab a can while you’re shopping and put it in the box after checkout, if that’s all the time and resources you have. Or, of course, you can buy a load of groceries for the food pantry and drop it off yourself.
2. Does your church have a Poor Box? Does the money actually go to the poor? Have you ever actually used it? Now’s a good time. Put money in there the next time you’re at daily Mass or confession. If your church doesn’t have one or if the charity they give to isn’t one you’d like to support, keep some money in your pocket to donate somewhere else– local shops downtown here in Steubenville collect spare change for the Friendship Room, for example, and there’s probably something like that in your town.
3. You are going to confession, right? And try to hit daily Mass at least once during Advent if you can.
4. If you happen to know what time of day your mail carrier is coming, wait by the door and offer them a hot chocolate. They are probably freezing.
5. If you’ve got a thermos and paper cups, you can help your kids set up a hot chocolate stand to give out warm drinks to your neighbors for free– or for donations to a good cause.
6. speaking of a good cause: please remember that there are migrant children being detained in horrendous conditions at the Southern Border this Christmas, and you can help get them out of detention quickly. Immigrant Families Together is a very fast, efficient charity that bails families out of those centers, reunites them, and then sets them up with legal support and housing while they wait for their day in court. You could ransom a captive and get them into a humane apartment for Christmas. Just support their work however you can.
7. Bring a pan of Christmas cookies, or lasagna or tacos or something, to a Catholic Worker House or a warming center or other place that poor people gather for lunch in the winter. If you live in the Steubenville area, you can bring it to the Friendship Room at 419 Logan Street, the duplex right next to Saint Pete’s. They’re always open this time of year. Remember that they also always need fresh produce, and the best produce for their needs is anything easy to chew such as bananas and chopped salads. Bring them a meal you would like to eat yourself, according to your means. If all you eat is tuna salad and bagels, don’t be ashamed to bring that, but don’t bring cheap food because they’re poor.
9. Offer to put up the tree and Christmas lights for a neighbor or friend who would like to decorate for Christmas but is sick or too busy or too depressed.
10. Offer to babysit a friend’s kids for the afternoon or take them to the mall to stand in line and see Santa so she can have a break.
11. Offer a ride to Mass, and to run errands after Mass, to a poor or disabled person in your community who might need one.
12. Be especially careful to be courteous and friendly to everyone working at the store when you go Christmas shopping. Imagine what they’re going through at this time of year– on their feet, meekly serving all those stressed and angry shoppers, and they have to do it while listening to Christmas muzak all day long. Be kind.
13. Make Christmas cards for people. I’ve got a huge box of unblessed prayer cards and old Christmas cards that are taking up space in my closet and I’m going to cut them up to make pretty collages for cards.
14. Put together a supply kit for a homeless person and hand it off to them the next time you see one. Get a gallon-size sturdy plastic bag, or a gently used purse or even a backpack. Stuff it with a water bottle, easy-to-chew snacks, a pack of wipes, alcohol-free hand sanitizer, new socks and gloves, bandages or a mini first aid kit, chapstick, mints or gum, comb and brush, travel-size toiletries, ibuprofen, an encouraging note or card, and a gift card to a local fast food restaurant or convenience store. Keep it in your car so you can hand it to a homeless person when you see them. Don’t forget to make eye contact and talk to them when you do.
15. Send a check or a package of canned food and winter wear to The Friendship Room. The address is Center of Hope/Friendship Room, PO Box 53, Steubenville, Oh, 43952. Bear in mind that if you want to ship them something from Amazon, you can go to smile.amazon.com, select The Friendship Room as your charity, and shop as you normally would, and a small donation will be made to The Friendship Room at no cost to you.
16. If you’d like to help rural pregnant women at risk, here’s a pregnancy support center that can use help! This isn’t one of the skeevy “fake clinics,” there’s a real doctor manning the sonogram and everything.
17. Would you like to help build a monastery? I’ve got a friend who’s planning one, and he needs sponsors, and you can help here.
18. If you’d rather give money to an individual person who is struggling than a charity or somebody else’s project, I have two friends who have told me in the past couple of weeks that they’re having a lot of trouble getting by this holiday season. One of these is a single mom and one is a family. You can give them a tip here and here.
The message of Advent is that Christ is coming. In one way He is already here. In another, He will be here in eighteen days. In another way, He is coming back at any minute. It’s time we Christians started living in His Kingdom instead of our own selfish little kingdoms.
So, what are you going to do with the rest of Advent?
(image via Pixabay)
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