You might remember the story of the “Secret Santa” who showed up on Staten Island during the 2012 Christmas season, a couple months after Superstorm Sandy devastated the area. The anonymous benefactor, a man with a big heart, walked the worst hit areas, handing out hundred dollar bills to help people with their Christmas shopping. He gave a total of one hundred thousand dollars to people who had lost so much.
What impressed me most was his reason for giving: “The money is not the point at all. It’s about the random acts of kindness. I’m just setting an example, and if ten percent of the people who see me emulate what I’m doing, anybody can be a Secret Santa.” (Reported by Doug Auer, New York Post, November 30, 2012.)
I am incredibly excited about what is coming up this week in Nashville—in fact, I’m too excited to keep it a secret. Denise and I will be hosting a Seniors Christmas ShinnDig at Lipscomb University. It is a free event that includes great food, music, and entertainment.
The first time we hosted a senior event during the Christmas season was more than thirty years ago in Charlotte, North Carolina. We served Lance peanut butter crackers. Even with Lance donating the “feast,” the party about stretched my budget back then. We’re going to take a little better care of this year’s group with a full holiday meal. But you know what? We had a great time munching peanut butter crackers.
We’ve sponsored similar events for seniors in New Orleans and Oklahoma City, with as many as three thousand coming out for food, fun, and fellowship. The response has been the same everywhere: a room filled with love and laughter. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Many of the attendees aren’t able to get out and socialize very often and some are feeling especially lonely during the holidays, so this is a real treat for them. Their eyes light up. They share fantastic stories and jokes. And when the music gets going, a lot of people will get up and dance. One year I think just about everyone in the large hall watched a woman stand up slowly, push her walker to the side, and start moving to the music. She was terrific! Her smile brought a smile to everyone’s face.
In Acts 20:35, we are told to remember that Jesus himself told us it is better to give than to receive. I think one of the obvious points Jesus is making is that we should feel grateful for what we have and the fact that we have something to give away. But what we really learn from Jesus’ words is that when we try to do something big or small to help others—to make someone else smile—we end up getting so much back in return.
It doesn’t matter if you hand out hundred dollar bills to storm victims, host a fun party for seniors—with peanut butter crackers or a meal that has all the trimmings—volunteer to serve soup at a homeless shelter or do whatever else large or small God puts on your heart.
The important thing to remember is that Christmas is the season to give!
George Shinn was raised by his mother in Kannapolis, North Carolina, in the most modest—and optimistic—of circumstances. “It’s hard to be poor when you don’t feel poor!” He has had the pluck and drive to build numerous successful companies and is best known as the founder of the Charlotte Hornets NBA franchise—an undertaking most pundits said wasn’t possible. George’s life motto is “you gotta believe!” The George Shinn Foundation is dedicated to helping people in need and building God’s Kingdom.