Tag Archives: charity

The Gift of the Magi


Maybe you remember O. Henry’s short tale about the poor couple who loved each other so much that they each desired to purchase the perfect Christmas gift for their spouse.  Times were hard for Della and Jim.  They were surviving on $20 a week in an $8 flat, but there was nothing left over for extravagant giving.  The only extravagant things they had were Della’s long, luxurious hair and Jim’s gold watch, passed down from his father and grandfather.  Both had significant meaning for the couple and helped to make the tough times easier to bear.

Della’s desire to give her husband an extraordinary gift outweighed her love for her hair, and she found herself at the hair goods shop selling it for $20.  She spent the rest of the afternoon searching all the shops in town for the perfect gift until she came across a platinum fob chain that Jim could use with his wonderful watch.  She couldn’t wait for him to see it!

When Jim arrived home later that evening, he was dumbstruck at the sight of his wife’s short hair.  She told him how she had sold it to earn enough money for his Christmas present and assured him that it would grow back quickly.  Still, it took him several minutes to recover.  After assuring Della that the length of her hair could never change his love for her, he showed her a package he had been holding.  It was his Christmas present for her… a set of pure, tortoise-shell combs with jeweled rims.  Della had long admired them in the storefront window and imagined pulling them through her long hair even though she knew it was an impossible dream.

Realizing the sad irony in the gift, she looked up and reminded Jim how fast her hair would grow.  Then, remembering her present for him, she held out the watch chain enthusiastically.  Again dismayed, it was several minutes before he confessed to Della that he had sold the watch in order to have the money to buy the combs.

The greatest gifts always require sacrifice.  It is the sacrifice that makes them precious.  The last two pennies of a widow are far more precious than thousands of dollars from a millionaire.  O. Henry concludes his story by telling us that these two foolish people are really the wisest of all who give and receive gifts.  They are the magi, for they know the secret joy of giving what you cannot bear to lose.  This season, why not commit to giving at least one gift that costs us something more than money.

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Filed under Abundance, agape love, Christmas, delayed gratification, love, marriage, sacrifice, Service, Serving Others, unconditional love

The Power of a Shared Vision


A few weeks ago, I participated in my favorite annual activity: attending summer camp.  The camp is for abused children and is part of a national effort organized through Royal Family Kids’ Camps, Inc. (www.rfkc.org).  I have two main passions in life.  One is teaching, and the other is helping children.  The camp scratches that itch for me every year.  But the reason I’m writing about it has less to do with the children than with the adult volunteers who organize and conduct the camp.

Camp is a tough commitment for many of the volunteers.  It requires a six-day trip, which usually requires the volunteer to use vacation time.  Our camp is located in the middle of Texas during a week of July, when temperatures are scorching.  Each camp guide takes responsibility for two campers between the ages of 7-11 and spends 22.5 hours a day with them.

Every day of the week starts at 7:30a (earlier if the adult wants to get a shower in) and runs until 9:30p, when the camp guide is allowed to take a 90-minute break before stumbling into his/her comfy camp bunk.  Camp guides follow a tightly-packed schedule and do their best to make camp the ultimate experience for each of their campers.

I’m not doing it justice, because many volunteers spend hours and hours in preparation for camp – submitting to an invasive interview process, participating in two days of on-site training, attending meetings, shopping for cabin decorations, loading trucks, inventorying supplies, attending fund raisers, etc…  Suffice it to say, this camp requires a unique and demanding type of commitment.

Each year, it takes over 60-70 adults to host the one-week camp for approximately 60-70 abused children.  That’s a one-to-one ratio of adults to children – almost unheard of at a summer camp but absolutely essential for preserving the safety and creating the experience for the kids.  Sixty adults is a tough number to muster for a volunteer opportunity, but this camp has done it successfully for the past twelve years.  This year, most of our 70+ adults were returning volunteers.  Twenty-two have been with us for five years or more, and seven of those have been with the camp for all twelve years.

I have never seen a team operate as smoothly and effectively as the one that comes together each year to put on RFKC #47.  Personal differences are set aside.  Egos are checked at the camp gates.  Individual agendas are abandoned…all in an attempt to serve the kids.  All this while volunteers are being tested to their physical, mental and emotional limits.

How do the camp directors generate such loyalty, commitment and sacrifice from the volunteers?  Simple.  The power of a shared vision.  The camp directors don’t have to cajole these contributions from their volunteers, because the volunteers give them freely.  They don’t have to offer incentives, because the volunteers believe that the work is reward enough in itself.  They can elicit extraordinary effort from their volunteers just by asking, because the volunteers are passionate about the goals of the camp.

Can this power be put to work on your team?  YES!  To do it, you will need to create a vision that all your team members can get excited about.  Even if the work your team does isn’t viewed as intrinsically rewarding in and of itself, you can create incredible synergy by identifying your team’s uniqueness.  What is it that your team wants to be known for?  What makes it different from all the other teams?  Why would anyone outside the team want to come be part of it?

Everyone wants to be part of something excellent and extraordinary.  They will work for less money, put up with inconvenience and hassle, step out of the spotlight…all to be part of something unique and worthwhile.  So, no more excuses!  Every team is capable of being excellent in some way.  Find out what your team values the most and then go to work creating that reputation for yourself!

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Filed under buy-in, commitment, motivation, ownership, sacrifice, Service