Have you ever been in line at the grocery store when the person in front of you pulled out food stamps to pay for their food? I have. Its a strange experience. The clerk has usually seen the stamps before, and has to do the normal formalities with them. But in the meantime, what are the people in line doing? That's right - looking at this person's grocery selections and judging. Name-brand diapers... pre-shredded cheese...microwave dinners. People can't help it - what was, just a minute ago, a normal selection of groceries has instantly become a standard by which to judge a stranger.

She's usually the young single mom type. I live in an interesting neighborhood - one where the line between the rich dink wasps and the struggling Puerto Rican teenage mother is all too visible. But it doesn't matter who he or she is. To pull out those stamps and subject yourself to the judgment of the strangers gathered around you must be a humbling experience.

My inclination is to wish there was something I could do for the person in front of me with no real money for food for their family...but in that situation, you can only make matters worse for the person by doing anything but keeping your peace.

Most of us will never know what that feeling is like. We'll never know the shame of not having, the humility of needing. And that, I believe, hinders us perhaps more than we'll ever know. We're the very people Christ was talking about when he talked about a camel passing through the eye of a needle. We live in the richest country on the planet, we have more than anyone in history ever did. And still, our main drive is to get more.

I believe this has spiritual implications. Not knowing any sense of real physical need, its near impossible to experience the severe spiritual destitution we exist in. Not impossible... but very, very hard to comprehend the desperation of our need.

This Christmas I'm praying that although we may have given much already this year, we'll still use this holiday season as an opportunity to give so much more to those who truly will be in need. Every year we have a holiday where we give gifts in plenty to those we love - and there's nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong with the fact that every year, there are still so many who need so much, and go without.

Give until way beyond it hurts. Its not like you'll be using food stamps in January.

(This was supposed to be my Tuesday post, which obviously didn't happen. Work on the new project has been a little nuts, combined with the fact that I'm trying to get on a new sleeping / working out schedule. More on this later...)

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