Saturday, December 14, 2013

gift guide: the art of giving

every year i struggle to impart some important christmas lessons to my children. we get excited about writing christmas lists each year, about the anticipation of the fun that christmas brings and all the season has to offer. somewhere in the mix of it all, i also want to show my children how amazing it is to give to others. i want them to revel in the joy that comes from watching someone open a gift you gave them. i want them to see the smiles in a neighbors face when you bring them a special treat. i want them to pack up gifts for those in need. i want them to look beyond themselves at christmas time.

if you are trying to teach your children or any children the amazing lesson that it is more blessed to give than to receive, here are some ideas that have worked well for our families.

  • bake for your neighbors. can i hear a shout out from my hood? i have amazing neighbors. they really are some of the greatest people i have ever met. maybe you have a neighborhood like mine. maybe you don't know a person on your street. well, there is no time like the present to make some connections. my kids start asking me when we are going to do our christmas baking on december 1st. each child now has a recipe that is their own that they prepare. one by one, we get our batches of goodies ready and divide them up among some neighbors. the kids get to deliver the packages of goodness to our friends and see the joy their little gifts bring. it is an easy tradition. the kids love it and it brings a bit of christmas cheer to those around you. done.
  • adopt a family for christmas. i have found that there are more places adopting families this year than in any years past. i love it. my children's school adopted families, my neighborhood, the gym where my daughter takes gymnastics, and my church. there were so many opportunities to shop that i had to make a list. i take my kids with me and let them find the perfect gifts for someone in need. if you can't find an organization that is organizing a family christmas adoption, organize one of your own. these precious families will be so blessed and so will you.
  • pay off somone's layaway bill. this one is harder to include the kids in but as they get older, you can explain the way places like walmart work. during this time of year, there are tons of layaway lists in the customer service section of the store. if you explain to the worker that you would like to pay off someone's layaway bill, they will usually let you look at the lists of items on each person's bill. find a list that has essentials for kids, necessities for their family. you'll find lists where people have coats and socks and underwear on layaway. choose a bill and pay it off as a special christmas surprise for someone. have the kids put in a dollar of their own to go towards helping someone else.
  • give young children a small allowance to purchase a gift for their parents. this one took a little work for our kids but now they are experts. we give each kid a small amount of money ($5-$10 is plenty) to purchase a gift for each parent. my oldest is now mowing a neighbor's lawn to make money during the spring and summer months so he is able to use his own money to go shopping. my husband and i switch off and take the kids on mini-shopping trips. at first the kids wanted to buy things that they wanted. "mommy will love a new car to play with." it takes some training but eventually they will look for a new pair of fuzzy socks or a pair of earrings instead of a toy they want. it is an amazing lesson to learn to think of what others would like instead of what you would like when purchasing gifts. there are many grown ups who still need to learn this. my future daughter-in-laws will thank me. when christmas morning comes, i am always amazed at how excited the kids are to give their gifts and how thrilled they are to see them opened. this one small act is teaching them how much joy comes from giving.
  • look into great philanthropic organizations. last year we included information on some of our favorites. click here for websites and information on "samaritan's purse," "compassion international," "heifer international," and "world help organization." they are all amazing ways to help those whose need is beyond what we can comprehend this christmas. let your children research some of the countries and see some of what they are experiencing or show pictures you yourself find. it is wonderful how much compassion can come from children when they understand a need.
  • have your children design a christmas card for each member of your family. my kids spend an afternoon each december writing out christmas cards for each of their siblings. they tell each other they love each other. they draw pictures. they will usually tape some sort of candy inside to give to their sibling. part of our fun on christmas day is reading all our christmas love notes from the kids. they are precious and they remind the kids how special their siblings are during the christmas season and all year through.
  • purchase gifts that give back for you. maybe some of the ideas listed are not going to work for you this year. we understand that giving back in some of the ways listed above may not be for everyone or even something you are able to do. there are many wonderful organizations that create awesome merchandise and who will give all or a portion of their profits to helping those in need every time you make a purchase. maybe giving back this year will include some unique gifts that will help those in need as well. here are some of our favorite gifts that will give back for you.
the giving keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness to make jewelry out of repurposed keys that get sold and shared around the world. each key is unique and carries a message like HOPE, STRENGTH, DREAM or COURAGE. when the wearer of the key encounters someone else who needs the message on the key, they give it away and then send in the story of their key being paid forward. i LOVE the necklaces and the thought behind them and plan on getting them for quite a few people on my gift list this year

through a unique model, krochet kids empowers the women of northern uganda and peru with the assets, skills, and knowledge to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. the result is long lasting and sustainable change. the organization provides jobs so that women can meet the present needs of their families. however, they go beyond that and educate these women so that they develop beyond the need for outside aid. they also provide mentorship to help each lady plan a unique and sustainable career path for the future. now, this is an organization i can get behind. 

what do you do to teach your children to think of others at christmas time? there are so many amazing ideas out there. i'm thankful for an army of people who help me and my children to think outside the box and, more importantly, to think of others.

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