When in 1996 a local Secondary School opened, staff decided to create a tradition to prepare Christmas Hampers for those in need. Each advisory class (of around 18 students G9-12) would adopt a family to help out. The students only know how many members in family, ages of children, and whether they have any food allergies. Every year, 65 –70 hampers are delivered to families. Inside each hamper is a note from school principal wishing family a Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy new year. It explains how hamper was put together by students and adds (I quote) “We hope that this hamper will bring you joy at this special time of year as it was put together with much love and care.”
What would you think experience of delivering a hamper would be? In my minds eye I would imagine this scenario… knocking at door, and seeing face of mother light up, excited voices and delighted faces of children gathering at door to receive four or five large boxes, all wrapped in Christmas paper being delivered. I would imagine seeing relief and gratitude on mothers face, perhaps moist eyes, as she realizes there will be plenty of food to go round this Christmas. She may feel, perhaps, amazement and a little overwhelmed that total strangers would go out of their way to be so generous. Seeing those things would be all reward those students needed for their selfless giving, and what a memory to have in impressionable teenage years.
Unfortunately this imagined scene is not reality in experience of school. One of teachers told me one of three things normally happen. When hampers are delivered (either by teacher or a trusted Grade 12 student), sometimes there is a thank you, sometimes a terse "put it over there", and sometimes no one answers door.
Now I understand that it is embarrassing and humbling to receive, and many people find it very difficult, and may not be able to show their appreciation in person. There are other ways to show gratitude and say thank you, a thank you note to school, a phone call or a letter. Sadly this seldom happens. I was shocked!! The school has probably prepared over 700 hampers since 1996, and have seldom received any acknowledgement whatsoever. The teachers reassure students that hampers were appreciated, and school keeps on giving. At this time students are planning how they can help victims of tsunami. The teacher’s comment was “The students are amazing!”
There is a well-known saying that it is better to give than receive; I would say that it is also easier to give than receive. I don’t know why it is so hard to show real appreciation when we receive something, but it is not just a cultural or generational problem.
In gospel of Luke we learn that it was difficult over 2000 years ago. Leprosy is a terrible disease that eats away at a person’s flesh, and is very contagious. In biblical times there was no cure. To have leprosy meant living outside town, being ostracized from society, no longer able to live a normal life with your family, maybe never being able to hug your children, only being able to speak to them or see them from a distance. If you had leprosy you had to walk about warning people by ringing a bell and shouting ‘unclean, unclean’ so people would keep away from you. Can you imagine living like that! Jesus met ten of these lepers one day, and told them to show themselves to priest, as they went they were healed. Not only was pain and suffering gone, but also their lifestyle was to be transformed. They could be reunited with their family, work, and be part of community again. Luke’s account tells us that one of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He THREW himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. Only one out of ten showed gratitude for such a huge life-changing miracle!