We started before my husband died, so it has been nearly a decade. We informed each of our grown children, to pass on to our grandkids, that we would no longer give them gifts for Christmas. It is, after all, Jesus’ birthday, not theirs. Instead, we shopped at gift catalogues that we received in the mail and sent money to an overseas ministry, in honor of each of our four families.
It was really a delightful exercise – trying to match the gift to some aspect of our children’s families. Kitchen equipment, school supplies, infant outfits and food, sports equipment, the options we chose from were many. We presented each family unit with a card and message telling them of our actions and wishing them a Christ-filled holiday time.
Now, I have to admit, I usually assemble small gifts that help fill the stockings on Christmas morning, but these cost very little and don’t come with my name attached. I encourage my families to consider ways they can invest in bringing cheer to others less fortunate than they are. Putting together a Christmas Shoebox in November is a great way to go.
But there is no end of ways we can involve our kids in deliberate acts of kindness. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Take a weekend afternoon and help kids do a comprehensive sweep of their toys. Encourage them to single out items that are truly precious to them and set these apart. Help them bring together all the parts for those toys that come with many pieces. Then, help them decide on items that are complete, and still “new” enough to bless another child, and set these aside. Let kids enjoy gift wrapping the toys. Older kids can write Christmas card messages to the recipient. Find a ministry that will welcome these gifts. Deliver them, with the kids, if possible – either to the ministry, or to the family who will receive them. Draw children into a prayer time for the kids destined to receive these gifts.
- When you choose a Christmas project where you simply give money, find ways for children to earn the money that they contribute to the total sum needed.
- Take another block of time, and help children make simple holiday favors, cards, or edible items and then prayerfully decide who will receive them. Whenever possible, let kids be part of the delivery experience.
- Scan the missionary literature you receive until you find a child that your family can adopt for Christmas. Present the child by her (his) name and a little of her location and circumstances. Find a way to post the picture or drawing of the child-in-focus somewhere that’s easily seen. Maybe make room on your refrigerator? Include kids in a circle of love by praying regularly for that adopted child.
Nancy Tichy, KidZ At Heart International author