As a DRE, I frequently find myself hearing from young adults about their uncertainties, loneliness, and fear of the future. The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter — And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Dr. Meg Jay has a lot to say about the pitfalls of the “emerging adult” stage of life, and a lot of good advise on how to move through the decade well. I recommend it as required reading for all of us that minister to this age group!
This month’s Childrens Chapel had a theme of “gifts”, asking the kids to think beyond the gifts they expect to receive for Christmas, reflect on what we mean when we say someone is “gifted”, and to realize that Everyone is a Gift, and Everyone Can Share Their Gifts.
I organized multiple ways for the kids to give to others: we baked cookies to serve during coffee hour, built gingerbread houses to decorate the church with, made holiday cards that I will mail to folks the Pastoral Care team lets me know could use a little extra cheer right now, and put together little gift bags for our homeless neighbors. Those bags went home with all the kids, with my encouragement to keep them handy in the car and just give them to one of the folks asking for help on a street corner.
We’ve done these projects before – they are simple and yet can actually do real good. This is the sort of thing that I really love about my job. I love helping kids learn to help.
My message to families this last week:
Focus on Giving:
In this season kids can focus too much on what they want and the gift they will receive for the holidays. Take some time to get them really involved in the other side: in the giving, the generosity, and the gratitude.
There are many ways to give, but here are 6 guidelines (from an article on Family Education):
1. Get honest. If you haven’t made giving a high priority in your family, talk about that.
2. Talk about the two G’s: Giving and Gratitude. Talk about how much you have, feel grateful for the gifts you have received, and that by giving to others it will just help you feel that much more appreciation for what you have. They go hand in hand.
3. Giving doesn’t have to mean charity work. Baking cookies for the neighbors, putting out a birdfeeder, any little act of kindness is an act of giving.
4. Let the kids decide how to give. Maybe you think homelessness is the biggest issue at hand, but your kids may want to give to the zoo for the animals. The most important thing here is that you are empowering them to give, so let them have some choice in it.
5. Be concrete. While giving money is often the most practical thing to do, for young children they may not understand where that money goes. Bring the kids as far as you can into the concrete and actual good their gift will do. Collect food and bring it to the food bank with the kids, and see if you can volunteer to help stock the shelves. Volunteer to drop off meals or gifts and bring the kids with you for the delivery. Go visit the zoo or Wolf Haven or wherever the kids wanted to send their money.
6. Give non-material gifts. Talk about how time can be a gift – like when a parent or grandparent spends time doing something your child chooses. Talk about how people themselves can be a gift – like when someone visits a lonely person and cheers them up just by being there. There are probably lots of ways your child could do something with or for someone, and that would be a gift too.
Every child, every person, is a gift. Help your child learn this and help them discover how to share their gifts with the world.
Although I’m not 100% sold on this holiday, it would be remiss of me to not bring it to your attention. In 2005, arising out of a desire to have a winter holiday organized around Unitarian Universalist values, Chalica was created by some theology students.
Chalica is “officially” set to begin on the first Monday in December, and then goes for 7 days. On each day, you light your chalice and have a reading for thePrinciple of the day (the 1st Principle on the first day, the 2nd on the 2nd day, etc.) and then do a good deed that day related to that principle.
There is a Chalica blog with lots of ideas. For readings and stories for each Principle, there is a good book: Our Seven Principles in Story and Verse by Kenneth Collier. This could become a very meaningful way for you to explore your UU values as a family during the holiday season.
However, I will share with you that the one year I tried to do this holiday with my family, our experience was simply to be overwhelmed. We already have a Christmas to celebrate with extended family, and my mother celebrates the pagan Yule so we also do that, and I grew up with a tradition that my parents invented of lighting twelve candles for the “12 Nights of Solstice” which I now continue with my kids …. I’m sure many of you experience this too: there is simply already too much to celebrate in the month of December. For that reason, I personally would have placed Chalica in January. And, of course, we are all free to do Chalica (or not) whenever and however we want to.