I don’t know a single child that does not love Christmas. And, I would imagine that if you asked them why, most would answer emphatically, “The presents!” I know in our house it is a top concern as well. In fact, my son just this morning, informed me that it was December 5th, and there are only 20 more days until Christmas presents. Sigh. Not many kids, including mine, are thinking about giving back.
However, most parents know that while presents are nice, they do not represent the reason for the season. So how can parents curb the gimme spirit and foster a giving one instead? We can show our kids the magic of giving back!
As parents, we know first hand the joy that comes from seeing faces light up on Christmas morning, knowing that we had something to do with that. The best gift we can give our children this year is the joy that comes with giving.
For many years now, our family has picked a charitable organization to get involved with, and because of this, our children not only look forward to what they will receive, but what they will give as well.
Here is a list of some great ways to give back during the holidays.
Toys For Tots
Many of you know this program from advertisements and movies. They take donations of new or gently used toys and money. The donations are used to provide Christmas presents to disadvantaged children.
We have used this program to help our children to learn the joys of giving. During those years when our children had more toys than bedroom, we asked our kids to find one toy in good condition that they no longer were using for each present they had sitting under the tree. Then we would make a trip to the local Toys for Tots collection spot, and donate what they found. Quite often, I was surprised by the toys they would present, as they were better than what I would have selected.
For more information on how your family can be involved with this program, you can visit the Toys for Tots site.
Coats For Kids
We are very fortunate to have a grandma who always makes sure our kids are well outfitted for winter. Every year they have a new coat, snow pants, gloves and hats. However, we know there are families who are not as fortunate, and winter clothing is extremely expensive. Even at our local used clothing shop, coats can run twenty to thirty dollars or more.
Because of this, some years we have donated the extra winter clothing collecting in the closets hoping it will help a child somewhere. This is such an easy way of giving back. If you would like more information on how to make a donation, you can visit the Coats for Kids site.
Bell ringing for the Salvation Army has been my family’s favorite way of giving back. We try to find an indoor spot, so it is more enjoyable for the kids. We get Santa hats to wear and bring small candy canes to hand out. Sometimes we even sing Christmas carols. It truly is a fun time, and we get to meet a lot of people.
The most memorable was a gentleman who truly radiated the spirit of Christmas. He arrived for his shift a half hour early, and told us we could leave. We chose to stay and he returned later.
Upon his return, he apologized for being so early; he just really loved ringing the bells. Then he told us why he loved ringing them so much.
He admitted that he was in fact homeless, and for the next several minutes he told us of how he had gotten sick, lost his job, and as a result, lost his apartment. He went on to explain how the Salvation Army had helped him get back on his feet, find a job, and locate an apartment, and by that New Year’s he would no longer be homeless.
We all stood there listening with no words. This was the first truly homeless person that had a face and a name to me, and I was wrecked inside. His story could be mine, or yours, or anyones. This was not the drug addicted low life we sometimes think about when we hear the word “homeless.” And the joyous, giving spirit that this man possessed has stuck with our family to this day.
For more information on how you can ring the bells, visit the Red Kettle website.
The Angel Tree
The Salvation Army Giving Tree is something you may find in your local church or mall. Instead of ornaments and bows, these trees are decorated with names – the names of local children in need. Each tag also includes the age of the child, the clothing sizes, and when to return the gift donation. Even though the suggested gift for this program is clothing, you are permitted to put toys or other fun things in the package too.
This is the program we participate in every year, even if we don’t do anything else. I like the idea that they put the ages on the tag, because it resonates with my children. They get to pick the tag of a child who is around their age, and then they pick out the gift items. Because the child is around their age, they seem to have more understanding and are much more interested in helping. Quite often I have seen real compassion on their faces as they imagine the child they are helping.
For more information on this program, you can visit the Angel Tree site.
Operation Christmas Child
This organization makes bringing joy to a child as easy as filling a shoebox with small trinkets, toiletries, and a small Bible and sending it off to.a.child on the other side of the world. Once the box is filled, there is a small fee collected for shipping. If you include an address, sometimes you will receive a thank you letter from the child.
We have used this program to teach our children about giving back globally and missions work, since the boxes are shipped to children in developing countries with missionary programs.
For more information about how you can be involved, visit the Operation Christmas Child site.
Visit a Nursing Home
This one is my kids absolute favorite. They love getting the opportunity to visit with the elderly. They love hearing stories of “the olden days,” the treats the residents always seem to have on hand, and the games or crafts they get to do.
My kids get to learn that the elderly are not scary, and the residents get the joy of having young people be interested in them.
To get involved, contact your local nursing home or long-term care facility.
Service For A Neighbor
In the past, we have been known to shovel driveways, provide meals to a family in need, or even wrap presents. There are endless opportunities to give back this time of year. The trick is not in finding a way to give back as a family. The trick is making the time, but if you do, I promise you that your family will receive so much more than you give.
If you have a great giving back story, I would love you to.share it in the comments.
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