Published December 2008 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd The Art of Giving A personal expression of love or gratitude is joyous to give, especially when the gift is met with a radiant smile from the recipient. Perhaps no other time of the year is more symbolic of the pleasure of gift-giving than Christmas.
Each Christmas, many West Virginians recall the first gift of Christmas: God's love delivered to mankind as a newborn baby. Shepherds and Magi honored the Savior with gifts symbolizing Jesus' virtue, faith and empathy for human suffering. Centuries later, God's gift continues to bestow hope, respect, and purpose in our lives.
In modern times gift-giving has become more complicated. There is endless advice about the "perfect" gift, with plenty of opportunities to purchase it everywhere you turn. This year, I call to mind the guidance of the seventeenth-century author, Gracian, who offered this advice: The great art of giving consists in this: the gift should cost very little and yet be greatly coveted, so that it may be the more highly appreciated. So many of us can find solace in this advice whenever we are feeling overwhelmed by commercial advertising and the pressure to spend, spend, spend this holiday season.
Recently, I was deeply touched to learn about a Wheeling congregation whose good deeds truly embody the Christmas spirit. The congregation sought and found a way to give the gift of mobility - in the form of a wheelchair - to those who are poor and physically disabled in countries around the world. Members of the church, along with their community, have partnered with a national organization to supply very low-cost wheelchairs (under $50) to impoverished children and adults.
For the recipients, a wheelchair means the end of their isolation, and the hope of renewed productivity and self-esteem. The caregivers of the disabled benefit as well. Many have spent a lifetime carrying and transporting their children, grandmothers and neighbors, and now have relief from this tremendous burden.
It is estimated that more than 100 million people around the world - of all ages - are in need of a wheelchair but cannot afford one. The need is great, so that is why the recipients of this gift greet their wheelchair with a radiant smile and the anticipation of a more mobile and free lifestyle.
During this Christmas season, I encourage all West Virginians to seek other great stories of faith, compassion and humanity to guide us in our search for the "perfect" gift. May you share an abundance of God's blessing in this Holy Christmas season.
December 10, 2008