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.