The Gifts You Give

by Tammy L. Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer

Are you tired of thinking of gifts? Various faith traditions often include some element of thinking of others and demonstrating some level of appreciation via a gift. Angel trees, toy drives, and stocking stuffers – this is a time so many are thinking about giving and experiencing the stress that comes with these thoughts. Will they like what I picked out? Can I afford what they asked for? How will I explain if I can’t give them what they want?

I recently had an experience trying to get one of the “it” toys for a special child in my life. I will confess to having an incredible soft spot for this child so once I knew of her desire for this toy, I set out to find it. The trouble is – the toy is in short supply and I know demand drives up the price. I could find what I was looking for at three times the cost. I read posts from so many anxious parents desperate to find the same toy and I was reminded of how many of my own holiday memories have nothing to do with an expensive gift.

I remember waking up extremely early to help my mother prepare a family meal. I watched as she would magically stretch a meager food budget to fill a table with smells and tastes which helped me know I was home and I was loved. Years after both of my parents have passed, I only think about how they made me feel and how I feel without them. As I result, I remembered all of my happiest times were linked to giving – not getting.

I then thought about all of the gifts youth care workers give each day of the year.

They give the gift of time - time to cover for a sick colleague - time to process a parent’s fear of not being able to understand what is happening in their family – and time to help each child they encounter.

They give the gift of hope. They answer uncertainty with supportive ideas. They share examples of how youth have overcome the odds and have the ability to create futures which starts with helping them understand they are more than what has happened to them.

They give the gift of unconditional acceptance. They communicate to each youth – “I see you”, “you matter”, “our world is better because you are part of it”.

The gifts youth care workers – including each of you – give cannot be wrapped in pretty paper or tied with a bow. These gifts cannot be obtained via a card with two-day delivery. And they cannot wait for a particular reason for giving.

The gifts you give save lives, inspire spirits, and fill hearts with the promise of safety and support.

Thank you for what you do and have done in an especially difficult time. The gifts you give cannot be exchanged and the great thing is – no one wants to.

Happy holidays from the NSPN team.


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