We know that Christmas is about giving, and about the greatest gift ever given. But we also know that it’s the GETTING that often takes center stage. How do we overcome that, especially with our children?
Encouraging our children to give of their time or resources is a good start.
Let it be said that we should have giving hearts all year long. During the holidays, people can feel particularly lonely, discontented and sad. During the winter, needs can be felt more severely. Throughout this holiday season, you can find many opportunities to give if you look around a little.
Giving of Your Resources
Angel Tree is very popular, and you’re very likely to be able to find an angel tree in your area. The kids and I have done this in the past at our nearest Wal-Mart. One of the reasons I like doing this is because it is easy for my children to put themselves in the shoes of other children their age, imagine what it would be like to be in need, and then WANT to give them something they need and would enjoy. One benefit is that you’re able to purchase larger items, such as coats and shoes along with dolls and games, etc.
Operation Christmas Child
Operation Christmas Child, by Samaritan’s Purse, is a charity that ministers to young children all over the world. Like the Angel Tree, my children can prepare packages for other children their same ages. There are, however, limitations on the kinds of items you can send – and you’re obviously limited by the size of the box. It would be hard to fit a pair of jeans or tennis shoes in with the rest of the gift items. Still, I like Operation Christmas Child for the fact that it gives us an opportunity to think of others in other countries and that they are ministering to children spiritually as well as physically. My children like the fact that the box they send could end up anywhere in the world! Even if you miss the deadline for this Christmas, OCC accepts donations year round.
There are other charities such as the Make A Wish Foundation and Toys for Tots. We haven’t personally participated in either of these, but I hear good things about them. You should also be able to find other opportunities around your community as well. Local churches and stores may have collections going. One youth group in our area is collecting coats, hats, mittens and blankets to give to those in need. Our Dollar General has a donation box for children in the area. Look around a little, and I’m sure you’ll notice opportunities all around you.
Giving of Your Time
This is one I struggle with, seeing as how I have three young children and am already struggling with managing my time wisely. Still, even for us busy moms, there are things we can do with our children to give of our time. (And be sure, I’m pointing all fingers at me while I write this!)
Take the time to tell someone you love them.
Say it with a phone call, a Christmas card, an email, some brownies… just say it. Take the time to think of someone else and encourage your children to do the same. (Again, this is something we can do year round!) Hand deliver notes and homebaked goodies to friends and neighbors, and don’t forget those who are sick or in nursing homes and may be in need of some company and a smiling face.
Show love through service.
Whether you offer to watch a friend’s children so they can Christmas shop or go on a date, or whether you offer to help them in their home with something that needs to be done, serving others is an act of love. When we serve others, not only do we show them that we care, but ultimately it is a witness to others of Christ’s love in us.
Something the kids and I have done in the past that is a lot of fun and very fulfilling for everyone involved is planning a surprise act of service for someone we saw who needed something. Just saying the word “surprise” is a lot of fun. Imagine how much fun it is to plan something special and then surprise that someone with just what they need.
Giving By “Recycling.”
Many people prepare for the holidays, the gatherings and parties, the impending influx of New Stuff, by purging through their “old stuff” first. I often have my children go through their items at this time of year, culling anything they don’t want or play with anymore (but still in good condition) for the purpose of sharing them with others who would appreciate them. It’s funny how my children balk at the idea of getting rid of things until you ask them to find things they can give to kids in need. Suddenly, they feel a lot more generous.
If you find yourself in possession of some extra material items this season, consider passing them on to someone else who might need them.
- Ask your friends and acquaintances if they need them. (Good for furniture, appliances, and ‘specialty’ items such as maternity wear and baby needs.)
- Join your nearest Freecycle group. You can offer practically anything on Freecycle – from boxes of miscellaneous kitchen items to empty fish aquariums to winter clothes.
- Find your nearest homeless or women’s shelter. A nearby shelter takes in battered women and children and is always in need of clothing and other items. There are few limitations on the kinds of things they will accept since many women and children come in with only the clothes on their backs.
I know this is just a scratch on the surface. There are many, many ways to give and serve others, especially during the holidays. If you have a favorite charity or service that I haven’t listed here, tell me about it, and why you like it.
Yes, it’s easy to think about all the getting, getting, getting at Christmas time. But it’s easier to avoid it when we think about giving, too. How will your family give this holiday season?
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