Every year I pull out a stack of children’s Christmas books to read. This week, The Bernstein Bears Joy of Giving left me in tears. It’s a simple book about a brother and sister getting excited to give each other gifts, and then deciding to give outside their family. Throughout my childhood I witnessed my mother and grandmother give over and over again. I think it was the best lesson they ever taught me.
My mother raised me with very little money. Most months, her entire paycheck went to bills, but she still found ways to bless others.
One time there was a lady in church who was welcoming a baby, but she couldn’t afford a crib. My grandmother found a used one and my mother (a true artist at heart) made it beautiful. I’ll never forget the final touch: a prayer she painted on the wood underneath where the mattress would go. I was a teenager at the time, and getting to witness the women in my life helping another woman had a huge affect on me.
They did lots of things like that throughout the year, and come Christmas I couldn’t wait to give them something. When EBay was first established I used it to get my mom a really nice teapot. I could not sleep that Christmas Eve, because I knew she was going to love it.
It’s easy as a parent to get wrapped up in what to give our kids for Christmas, and forget to give them the biggest gift of all: a love for serving others. It’s something that will last them longer than any plastic doo-dad.
The thing is, when we try to cram lessons of thankfulness and generosity into one season it doesn’t work. Instead, if we are in a rut of complaining or feeling down about what we don’t have or can’t afford, I think we should use this time as a re-set and an attitude change for the entire year.
To start, instead of just asking our kids what they want for Christmas, we could ask them what they think we should get their sibling or grandparent. We could even let them earn a little money to go shopping for others. This lets them in on the real fun.
The most important thing we can do is invite our kids to think about others all year long. If you’re making a meal to take to a friend, ask if they want to help. If someone has a birthday party, let them wrap the gift. If someone is sick, see if they want to send a card along with yours. By including them early on they will catch the spirit of giving to family and the larger community.
What are your family traditions around giving?