As we enjoy the holiday season, I am reminded of how much we as a community give to those in need.
Culpeper is right there when called on for food, clothing, and shelter. As we should be, for these basic needs are critical to survival and the well-being of all.
But I want to suggest one more thing in this season of giving. What if we asked even more of ourselves? What if our giving wasn’t only limited to “stuff”?
Those grappling with meeting their most basic needs likely have little left to attend to other higher-level needs. It may be that they are suffering in other ways that may not be so obvious or visible.
The philosopher and psychologist Abraham Maslow offered a “hierarchy of needs,” which states that the lower level needs take priority and must be met before others can be pursued. So it is right for us as a community to support others in meeting these needs.
But there are numerous other needs described as essential to an individual’s ability to live well. Even if you do not have food or money to offer, the giving of your time to listen to your neighbor, or to make that phone call to someone who may be alone this holiday season can mean just as much toward a person’s overall health and happiness.
Studies have suggested that the need for love and belonging can, for some come before even the basic physiological or safety needs. If you don’t believe me, talk to a kid involved in a gang or someone experiencing an abusive relationship. When push comes to shove, they might sacrifice their need for safety for the sake of belonging or connection with others.
Maslow believed that people try to satisfy their needs in a particular order: First, their basic needs for survival (food and shelter); second, they satisfy their need for security, and so on. Focus on these needs can detract from a person’s ability to focus on other aspects of their life, or even to be aware of the needs of others because they are operating at a lower level (competition for food and water). Despite the cost to themselves or others, they may believe they are doing what they must to survive.
Those beyond the struggle to survive behave differently as they begin to seek higher goals, such as a sense of belonging and purpose in their lives. In fact, as individuals move toward self-actualization, they may feel compelled to give more than take from others.
Just as if you have an abundance of food or clothing, you may be inclined to share what you have. It is also true that as you reach up to higher needs, you are more inclined to give of yourself. That is what we are all ultimately called to do, especially during the holidays.
Even if you do not know anyone personally who is lacking in food, shelter or safety, we all know someone who is feeling alone.
We all know someone who is searching for a reason to wake up everyday, whether it is because they are unemployed or because they are discouraged or afraid.
We all know someone who is struggling with anger, hatred or even a spiritual void.
These are all opportunities for giving, and these do not require financial sacrifice, they only require us to be open, to listen, and to give a little bit of ourselves.
If you have warmth, safety and love this holiday season, then you have the greatest gift to give. We all deserve and need at least that much.