Although I am absolutely grateful for the gifts my loved ones bestow upon me during the holidays, I have to admit that the sense of fulfillment comes not from being the recipient but rather the giver. As such, it is so easy to get swept up in the buying frenzy surrounding the holiday season. I start my planning months in advance and have been known to purchase Christmas gifts as early as December 26th. Side note: I love a bargain. But I digress. Every year the stores deck the aisles with merryment earlier than the year prior, and it sucks me right in. Since having children, I find myself contemplating the lessons I want to pass on to them and worrying about overindulgence. As I said before, there is no greater reward than giving a gift to a loved one and watching their excitement. In the spirit of such, I am inspired to give my children the gift of giving along with the typical gifts I will place under the tree.
Of course, I want my children to understand that Christmas is not all about what Santa brings and what mommy and daddy put under the tree. Not to mention all the gifts they receive from family members. My hope is for them to grow up to be charitable and kind to those who are most in need. For the past several years, I have donated in some capacity to an individual or organization. However, the way I carried this out was not necessarily visible to my children. I had to acknowledge that my actions were not in line with this fundamental concept I was hoping to ingrain within them. This year, I decided to involve my oldest child as I feel he is at an age where he can understand at some level. I am adding this to our family Christmas traditions, including experiences such as Celebration in the Oaks, watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and writing letters to Santa.
I encourage you to involve your children this holiday season when giving to those less fortunate, just as Courtney shared her ideas for focusing outward last week. In an effort to assist, I have compiled a list of suggestions that is in no way intended to be exclusive. Give back in a way that feels natural to you and is realistically attainable.
It goes without saying that the holidays are a time of financial struggle for many. My suggestion to give more should not be misconstrued. There are many ways to give that do not involve writing a check (or a swipe of your credit card). If time is what you have to give, think about having your children write letters to residents of a local retirement home, such as to Christwood Retirement Community, or to patients at Children’s Hospital. If you have older children, perhaps sign up to volunteer at the local Habitat for Humanity. Finally, the St. Tammany Project Christmas offers a wide range of opportunities to give back whether it be your time or money.
For the past several years I have tried to make some sort of charitable donation during the holidays. Typically, that involved buying a couple of toys at Wal-Mart and dropping them in the Toys for Tots bin. Last year, I participated in the State Bar Association’s Secret Santa program and was assigned a child who provided me with his name, age and personal wish list. If you are able to do so, I strongly encourage you to participate in a similar a program with St. Tammany Project Christmas or Catholic Charities of New Orleans. This was the most rewarding experience because I was able to purchase meaningful gifts for a person I could visualize. In addition to gifts, organizations such as the Covenant House and the Ronald McDonald House need other essential items in order to provide their services to the community. New Orleans Moms Blog will be at the Ronald McDonald House this holiday season with some of our children to decorate Christmas cookies with the families staying in the house.
Any charitable organization, including those mentioned throughout this post, relies on donated funds in order to survive. If you are in a position where you are blessed enough to be able to do so, financial contributions will always be welcomed and appreciated.
I hope this has inspired you to give to a person who is less fortunate than you this holiday season. In doing so, no matter how big or small, you are sure to warm your own heart, and most importantly, make a difference in the life of a stranger. An added bonus: this opportunity is a teachable moment for your children.