Gratitude makes a great Christmas gift

Dec. 14, 2013 @ 05:44 PM

It happens every Christmas and it will happen again this year. You’ll open a gift and wonder what the giver was thinking when the decision was made this was something you wanted or needed. It wouldn’t be bad if it only happened to you, but you know in your heart, you give the same kind of gifts. We’re among the wealthiest people in the world and most of us have everything we want or need.

When Cherie and I got married, we decided to forgo Christmas gifts for each other. This happened for two reasons. First, we already have everything we need and we really prefer to choose our own stuff. Second, trying to buy something for someone who needs nothing creates stress, and takes away from the joy of Christmas. We decided to prepare gifts for the Samaritan’s Purse ministry instead. Since that time, we’ve donated twenty shoeboxes a year to the ministry; I suppose that would make 300 shoeboxes donated to children less fortunate over the 15 years we’ve been married. During that time, I haven’t felt the slightest let down from not getting a gift from Cherie.
In the last few years, I’ve been part of a non-profit called Enduring Gratitude. Formed with the idea of giving returning combat veterans a memorable day outdoors as an expression of gratitude for their service, Enduring Gratitude has provided about 150 days of fishing, shooting, or hunting for servicemen and women since its inception a few years ago. Bird hunts, dove hunts, and hog and turkey hunts have been provided to small groups and individuals who’ve found out about us and participated.
By far, our largest events have been our annual Pheasant Tower Shoot held at Beaver Pond Sporting Club, in Snow Camp. Before we began Enduring Gratitude, we held a tower shoot for a group of Wounded Warriors. The event was a success with about 30 adaptive veterans coming out and enjoying shooting clays, a hunt, and a dinner in their honor. We learned there was so much attention being devoted to Wounded Warriors that it was difficult for them to fit our event into their schedules, and the idea was spawned to do something for all returning veterans, since all who serve sacrifice, and we owe our freedom to that sacrifice.
Since the formation of Enduring Gratitude, we’ve received a lot of support from the community, both corporately and individually. Corporate sponsorships begin at $300. Our title sponsor, Mana Crop Protection, put in $5,000.00 for last year’s event along with help in material and manpower. The High Point Area Builders Association has also been a strong supporter, both financially and with volunteers.
Last year, the Mana Enduring Gratitude Pheasant hunt hosted 60 veterans from all over the region. The veterans arrived for coffee and donuts in the morning, registered, and were squadded to begin the day at the pheasant field or the clays range. They shot clay targets with shooting coaches to help with wingshooting skills, and headed for the pheasant fields. In the fields, volunteers handled dogs to retrieve their birds, other volunteers picked them up, and still more volunteers cleaned and packed their birds to take home to their families.
Those young men and women thanked the volunteers for their day, but the real gratitude should be on the hearts of every one of we who enjoy our freedom, earned by the sacrifice of young people like the ones who shot clays, hunted, and enjoyed a pig picking at Beaver Pond. I suspect there wasn’t a single person who left the fields that day without feeling better than when they came. These young people are an inspiration to all who value their freedom.
This year, the goal is to host 80 veterans. The addition of a full sporting clays course at Beaver Pond will allow us to handle more servicemen and women, and Enduring Gratitude is on its way towards achieving that goal, but we need the support of the community to make this happen. Donors can sponsor a veteran for $300.00 or make smaller donations towards food, shells, or supplies. Corporations or groups can sponsor at different levels and all help is appreciated. There is no paid staff at Enduring Gratitude, every dollar donated goes to the events and programs.
If your family is stressed by trying to choose Christmas gifts, maybe this is the year to change the tradition. Whether you choose to donate to Enduring Gratitude, or another worthwhile effort, there’s a lot that can be done with cost of a shirt someone will never wear, and doesn’t need. The real spirit of Christmas is giving and we all know we get more pleasure from giving than receiving. Recently, a local individual donated $3,000 to this year’s event requesting anonymity. I appreciate that donation and the decision to make it without any desire for recognition.
I suspect this donor is a person who truly understands the meaning of Christmas.
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for several N.C. newspapers as well as national magazines and websites.  If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at offtheporch52@yahoo.com or offtheporchmedia.com