Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hone$ty Pay$

So it's Christmas time, and I'm sure everyone (like us) has been doing a lot of shopping and wrapping and waiting in line at the post office to make sure all the presents get delivered by Christmas Day. We tried to get all our shopping done early(er) this year.  One gift purchasing experience left me quite happy we made the decision a long time ago to be honest no matter what.

We purchased quite a lot of our gifts this year from, and with coupons and combining good deals, all but one gift came with free shipping.  The one that didn't happened to be the most expensive purchase we've made this season.  It came on time and we were pleased with the product. A few days after all of our gifts arrived, we received an extra box in the mail. I'm part of a world-wide Mommy gift exchange event on Facebook, and I figured it must be the gift from my Secret Santa, so I opened it.  The package inside was clearly NOT meant for me, and there was a paper on top of the item with the name and address of someone else. When we compared the box to another one we had received we realized it was from the same seller who sold us the gift we had to pay shipping on.

Now, for us it wasn't even a discussion about what to do with the box. It wasn't ours and it needed to go to the rightful owner. But looking back, if we were dishonest people, it would have been super easy to keep it and get away with it. The box was mailed through USPS, and there was no tracking number, so the shipper would have no way of knowing that we had it. In addition, the person who actually ordered the package probably would have waited several more days before complaining that she hadn't received the box yet, so they wouldn't know where to look first. And some people might rationalize "It's not MY fault they mailed me the wrong box" and use the "finders keepers losers weepers" way of thinking. But in the end, it would have been dishonest no matter which way you look at it to keep the box. All I could think is that some poor woman in Michigan is waiting for a Christmas gift to arrive, and if I don't do something soon it might not get there in time for Christmas.

So I emailed the seller. I explained the situation and hoped they would get back to me soon. I got a phone call from the guy who owns the company apologizing for the mix up.  I asked if he wanted me to mail it back to him so that he could send it to the right person, but after some discussion we decided that that would definitely get the gift there way too late. I agreed to take it to the post office and mail it to the woman who made the purchase, and then email the seller a receipt so that he could reimburse me for the shipping. I had to go to the post office that day anyway since I still needed to mail my Secret Santa gift all the way to England (which by the way is SUPER expensive!).

The next day I was surprised to see that we had a large deposit into our bank account from Amazon, much larger than the cost to mail the misplaced package to Michigan.  When I checked my email the seller had sent me a message saying he had refunded not only the cost on the receipt for mailing his box, but also my previous purchase and shipping charges as a thank you for taking the trouble to help him out!  I couldn't help but smile at his kindness.

Even if we hadn't have received monetary compensation for doing the right thing, honesty still pays. It adds to your reputation as a trustworthy person, it builds confidence that you're doing what God wants you to do, and it gives you the peace of mind knowing that no one can accuse you of trying to cheat your way through life.  Most importantly, it shows the Savior that you take seriously your commitment to follow in His footsteps. God blesses us for doing good, and more often than not those blessings are much less subtle than money in your bank account.  Often it is simply a feeling inside that you helped someone else.  It is the peace in your heart and mind, and another drop of oil in your lamp (referring to the Parable of the 10 Virgins).  And those blessings, however subtle they might be, have eternal significance.  I would rather be honest and add value to my soul than be dishonest and add value to my bank account (although in this rare instance being honest added to my bank account as well).

So whenever you're in a situation where someone has made an error in your favor, or it would be really easy to get away with paying less than you are supposed to, or keeping something that isn't yours, please remember honesty. Christ teaches us that we should seek treasures in heaven, not treasures on earth.  Having perfect integrity is one of the best ways to ensure that you are seeking the right treasures.  So remember to be honest and have a Merry Christmas this season!

What is Christmas?

Over the past few days I've been contemplating my feelings towards Christmas.  I'm sure we all remember as kids, how excited we were every Christmas morning to run to our Christmas tree and check out all the present we got.  I remember laying in bed for hours Christmas Eve, unable to sleep for the excitement within me.  I remember the warmth and excitement of the entire Christmas season, how it just built up and up and up, all culminating on the 25th.

But now things feel different.  I no longer feel this burning excitement within me, super-anxious for Christmas to arrive so I can check out my gifts.  I find that I more enjoy just spending the time with family.  More than gifts I now cherish the special time spent with family members I haven't seen in a long time.  I cherish the memories made and the good times enjoyed.

But I don't need Christmas to be able to enjoy those times with family.  I can use any day of the year for that.  I'm assuming many adults feel the same way that I do towards Christmas and presents.  We no longer feel that drive and desire to get tons of gifts.

So if Christmas isn't really about presents, and if it really isn't focused completely on spending time with family, what is it about?

I feel like the world has turned Christmas into something commercial, something manufactured.  They still try to emphasize the true meaning of Christmas, of remembering Christ and his birth.  But it still takes a back burner to the worldly aspects of Christmas.

So I wonder if we do the same thing?  Do we still claim that we are remembering the true meaning of Christmas, God's purpose for Christmas, when in reality that is just a facade for what we actually do with our families: buying and getting gifts, spending frazzled nights trying to get our family Christmas cards ready, and spending long days making Christmas cookies?  Now don't get me wrong, none of these are bad things.  In fact, they're wonderful traditions that I cherish in my own family.  But my question is are we still putting those things ahead of what Christmas is really about?  I know that I'm certainly guilty of this.  We say we remember the true meaning of Christmas, but we only spend a few hours on it total during the Christmas season.  It's similar for Easter: we remember the true meaning of Easter, but oftentimes we're more focused on egg decorating and hunting and waiting for the Easter bunny.

So how can we put Christ at the center of our Christmas and not leave Him out on the fringes?  I guess that's my question for you.  I don't claim to know, that's what I've been trying to figure out.  So how do you put Christ in the center of your Christmas?  Please comment below and we'll try and see if we can figure it out.  I'll close, though, with a few comments by some modern-day apostles and prophets that can hopefully steer us in the right direction.

And yet, Christmas is what we make of it. Despite all the distractions, we can see to it that Christ is at the center of our celebration. If we have not already done so, we can establish Christmas traditions for ourselves and for our families which will help us capture and keep the spirit of Christmas. - Thomas S. Monson

The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and of generosity and of goodness. It illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things. - Thomas S. Monson

While it’s true that we can find materialism and anxiety in Christmas, it is also true that if we have eyes to see, we can experience the powerful message of the birth of the Son of God and feel the hope and peace He brings to the world.  - Dieter F. Uchtdorf