While giving and generosity are character traits we cultivate in our family all year long, we like to focus on giving even more during the holidays as a way to offset the “gimme” mindset that so easily creeps in.
We do this through giving not just money but our time, by investing in our community, by talking about the sacrifices others make, by thanking the people who serve our community, and by looking for ways to bless those who are less fortunate than us.
Before we get into the rat race that can so easily characterize the holiday season, take some time now to plan out how you’ll give as a family this holiday season.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Make a sparkle box.
We absolutely love The Sparkle Box book. We read it at the beginning of our advent book countdown last year and then I spent the following weeks writing down each act of service, charity or kindness on a piece of paper and slipping it inside. On Christmas morning, we opened our gift to Jesus first, reading each slip of paper and remembering how we’d served. It’s a tradition I’m looking forward to repeating this year!
2. Thank a hero.
One of the things we love most about our American Heritage Girls troop is the emphasis on honoring those who serve our country. At Christmas time, that means sending cards to soldiers through Holiday Mail for Heroes and laying wreaths on soldiers’ graves through Wreaths Across America. You could also bake cookies and make cards for your local police or fire department as a way to say thank you for their service!
3. Shop the World Vision gift catalog.
I love the idea of having our girls shop from the World Vision Gift Catalog instead of just picking out toys for themselves. Seeing that something as simple as 5 ducks or 2 chickens or a pair of rabbits can truly impact a family in ways we can’t even imagine is a great lesson for kids who can get anything they could possibly imagine from Target or Amazon.
I’d like to find a way for my older girls to truly be invested in the gift we give — by earning a portion of the money they’ll spend — but just the act of pouring over the gift catalog the same way they do the toy catalogs that come in the mail is a potentially life-changing experience for them and the gift recipient.
4. Volunteer in your community.
There are a million ways to volunteer during the holiday season, which can make it easy to avoid actually committing to one or two, but this is a great time to take the focus off the busyness and stress of the season and spend a few hours serving the community. Ring the Salvation Army bell, volunteer at a church outreach event, or put together holiday boxes for a family in need. Commit to it now, before your calendar fills up, to make it a priority this year!
5. Clean out the toys.
Like a lot of families, I try to go through our toys before Christmas to declutter and make room for the new ones that will inevitably come. We involve our girls in this process to help teach them life skills about decluttering, organizing and that “stuff is just stuff”, but we also use it as an opportunity to donate the extras. However, one thing I’ve really felt strongly about lately is that we shouldn’t say, “You never play with these toys” or “You have a better one already” when we’re cleaning out the toys to donate. I don’t want to teach my girls to give their leftovers; I want to teach them to give sacrificially. And as a mom, I’ll admit I’ve vetoed something they wanted to give away because of the cost or the sentimentality of it.
This year I’m going to handle it differently. This year, in addition to decluttering for space, I’m going to encourage the girls to pick something special to donate as well. And rather than just tossing it in a box with all the other stuff that we donate, I’m going to make a bigger deal out of preparing it for another special little girl. Our kids have no shortage of toys (and they get more each and every birthday and Christmas), so I don’t want to miss this opportunity to teach them sacrificial giving.
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