As I was driving home this evening from a massive amount of errands, the song “Little Drummer Boy” by Jars of Clay came on the radio. This is far from my favorite Christmas song, but the words came to a deeper meaning this particular holiday. Let me give you some back story.
I just completed my master’s degree at Gonzaga University and, unlike undergrad student loans, graduate student loans have no grace period. The past several days I have been receiving notices about my pending student loan payments. Additionally, I have not yet found full-time employment. I am moving into a new place this weekend (deposit + first month’s rent), and it is Christmas (which means giving at least a few gifts). I do not mean for this to be a sob story — but things are pretty tight right now!
The “story” of the Little Drummer Boy is sort of similar (bear with me here). The boy is told to come and see a newborn king (no matter your beliefs, the boy is told he is to see a king). "They” have brought their finest gifts. But the boy is poor and has no gift to bring.
I imagine that, at this point, the boy is discouraged. He sees others bringing lavish and valuable gifts and he simply cannot afford anything.
He realizes, though, that he has his drum. When he offers to play, Mary nods, he plays, Jesus smiles (we do not hear about Jesus wailing because of the loud racket, though I think this would have been a more realistic response!).
I think there is an underlying notion to this story. Much like the drummer boy, we are not required to give a particular gift to the world. And we are not required to measure our gifts to the gifts of others. Rather, we are to use our time and talents in such a way that others benefit.
If everyone wrote a check to local charities but no one volunteered, there would be a major gap in services. And if everyone wanted to volunteer but no one pledged money (or provided for the literal needs of people — food, shelter, a place to warm up), there would be a different gap in services. The challenge, then, is to determine how your talents can best impact those in need and the world as a whole.
I also want to issue an additional challenge/plea (and I’ll provide another back story). When I first moved to Spokane two and a half years ago, I applied for 107 jobs and did not get a single call back. After two months of my four-month unemployment, I was really broke. I could not afford groceries or the basic necessities. I swallowed my pride and went to a local food bank. While I was able to get calories, the items provided could hardly be called nutritious and it was hard to create a meal out of them.
There were multiple shelves of Ramen Noodles and cans of green beans. There was a fair amount of macaroni and cheese — but no milk or butter. And there were lots of random odds and ends that most people simply do not know how to cook with.
My plea for you, then, consists of several things. First, please consider donating to local food banks. Second, when you donate, please try to donate items with caloric value — chunky soups, high-protein snacks, and things you would actually enjoy eating (many underprivileged people can afford Ramen Noodles already). Third, consider the non-food items that people need on a daily basis — toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo, feminine hygiene products, etc.
You will benefit someone — children, families, and maybe the occasional college graduate who cannot find work.