This column is sort of a takeoff on an ongoing effort of our Pastor Steve and others of our church to formalize and advance the joy of giving in our local church.

We go through life reading and hearing that it is better to give than to receive. That seems contrary to our thinking when very young, as we awaited toys at Christmas or favored birthday gifts.

But as experience adds its years along the way, we find that, very truly, it is better to give to, than to receive from, the people around us.

We do live in a community with many examples of joyful giving. It may be the inner faith group that gives to others every day; or the Rotary or Lions with their traditional gathering and giving projects; or the CommUnity Meals in Pine River; or the food for children projects in Nisswa and Brainerd; or ongoing area food shelves.

It is giving of dollars, but often more important of available hours.

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One may drive for Meals on Wheels, but may be giving even more by staying and visiting with the meal recipient. One can contribute to Habitat for Humanity, but probably donate more by spending hours building a Habitat home or hauling donated furniture.

I observed and learned of joyful giving by people short of dollars when I grew up on the small family farm west of Pequot.

My grandfather and neighboring homesteaders, while eking out a meager living for themselves and their families, somehow found time and donated timber and sawed lumber to build their Kedron Church.

My grandmother, and later my mom, welcomed every visitor to their table. They were actually offended whenever their hospitality was declined.

Our dads shared work and equipment at planting and harvesting time, but all pitched in and took over another neighbor’s fieldwork whenever that neighbor was sick or injured.

We have a person in our church and community who epitomizes the true joy of giving. If our church ever awarded sainthood, Clara would be a classic candidate.

Her morning begins with a cup of coffee while deciding how she’ll spend her day, giving to and helping others. She drives for people who cannot afford a car and need a ride, or have a car but can no longer drive to get where they need to go. She takes some shopping. For others, she does their shopping and visits with them when she delivers the purchases.

She was the good daughter, then devoted wife, nurse and caregiver for her physically disabled husband, and during the same years for her needy sister, as long as they both lived.

She is the cookie baker, the listening ear and the supplier of wise counsel and consultation for family and friends, from like age to teenagers. Approaching age 90, she shows little sign of slowing up.

Clara epitomizes what the rest of us can look to and draw from.

Clara exemplifies the joy of giving.

Giving to others financially actually went up in Minnesota during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. However, it is declining so far in 2021. We have Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching; and also what has become statewide Give to the Max Day.

As we approach those dates, let’s experience and show that joy in giving is truly that - that a true joy emanates from the act of giving to others.