…open before christmas

on christmas morning in 1996 my parents packed us up and drove us to our new house.  it was a special day because we got to go inside of the home my parents had just built and open presents there.  we weren’t moved in or anything yet, which kind of made it more exciting.  i can’t remember all of the details, but i can recall that exact feeling of excitement. a new house and new presents. my mom brought out a huge box full of all of the power rangers my brother and i wanted.  new barbies and a new bike, books, legos. i sat on the steps and started reading my new book.  i can still see that moment, and maybe even feel it.  i might not remember all of the presents i received, but what i do know is that i got everything i wanted.  everything i asked for.

what i didn’t know was that i was lucky.  that some kids don’t wake up to christmas mornings like that.  that some kids don’t even wake up in their home on christmas morning. my eight year old self didn’t know how appreciative i should have been. my 24 year old self today knows that i don’t need christmas gifts, that christmas is in fact, not my birthday.  and this self knows christmas in a different way than i did sixteen years ago.  but most importantly, this 24 year old who is sitting on the floor, next to christmas lights and drinking hot tea, knows how much the gifts meant to me at that time, how loved they made me feel. i think everyone deserves to have that kind of feeling.

today my friends and i had a gift-wrapping party.  two days ago we all went shopping to buy christmas presents for 37 children.  and there are still so many other families and children. you should know that i am not telling you this for any reason other than to encourage you to do the same.  to remind you that there are different ways to give. to celebrate the christmas spirit. i know that there are varied opinions on sharing acts of kindness and generosity, but to be honest,  i’m not looking for recognition or anything of the sort.  i’m looking for other people to join in. and i think one good way to accomplish that is to share ideas.

maybe you’ll spend some time thinking of how to give in a new way this year.  and more importantly, maybe you do more than think about it.  i hope you’ll act on it.

i wanted to come up with a realistic goal for this holiday season.  i wanted to do 25 different gifts, but also wanted to be realistic on time and money.  i settled on four.  one for each week for the month of december.

Four weeks of Christmas

1.  time-  sign up to ring the salvation army bell.  go visit people who are lonely over the holidays.  bring flowers to a nursing home.  volunteer at the food bank.  offer new experiences and memories in place of new gadgets and ‘stuff.’ spend time with your family instead of money.  bake cookies together.  watch your favorite holiday movies. go look at christmas lights. play in the snow. talk more, shop less.  commit to putting your phone down during your holiday celebrations…or even better, turn it off.  make twice as much food as you’ll need for the holidays and donate half of it to a family who can’t afford to have a christmas as nice as yours.

2. resources- go through your closet.  take out those sweaters you say you’ll always wear and those pants that no longer fit.  donate your favorite clothes.  challenge yourself to stop being so attached to material things. there are homeless shelters, safety shelters, children shelters, animal shelters.  there are cold hands and feet.  there are people with dirty clothes.  donate old shoes or cozy blankets.  donate food. go through old books and find places who need some.  if you have extra toiletries, give some of those too.  or what about the tons and tons of extra wrapping paper you have?  why not share that so what’s already been boughten gets used up?

3. talent- what if the only gift you gave was making use of the gift that you are?  shovel someone’s snow.  cut someone’s hair.  make something.  offer a service for free.  bake cookies.  make someone a card. write a note.  cook a meal. go sing or read at a nursing home.  help organize gift baskets. give the best part of yourself to someone else. spend more time with your kids and less money.  make a gigantic fort.

4. money- maybe you don’t have time. and maybe you don’t have a lot of money.  but what about actually stopping and putting change in that salvation army bucket?  what about using your $4 coffee money to buy a bell ringer a drink?  what about donating that money instead?  what about crossing off one item on your “want list” this year and replacing it with an organization you’d like to donate to? instead of asking for new clothes to replace your already full closet, why not buy warm gloves for someone who doesn’t have a home?  you could buy socks, underwear, and gloves in a wide range of sizes to donate to a homeless shelter.  you could pay off or put money towards someone’s layaway account.

i truly would love to hear about what you decide to do.

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3 thoughts on “…open before christmas

  1. We have tried a few different things the past couple years. Last year we called up Social Services and asked for the first name and needs of a child that was aging out of foster care. We figured it had to be hard to go out into the world and have no one. If you can find a child that is going off to college there are tons of things they need, too.

    Another idea, that I am really excited about, this year we are serving Christmas Eve Dinner at the Ronald McDonald House and making it a tradition (maybe not always Christmas Eve, but around then). We know what it is like to have a child in the hospital close to the Holidays. At that time, the best gift a child can receive is having their parents closeby and those parents need to be taken care of, too.

    We went caroling at a Nursing Home last year and the residents just loved it, especially seeing the children.

    Just some other ideas to add to your great list!

    1. Omg these are such wonderful ideas!!! Thank you SO SO much for sharing them :) I really love the idea of calling social services to find out how to help a child aging out of foster care! I didn’t even think about Ronald McDonald houses…which also encourages me to consider creative ways to give gifts or provide support to not only families who have loved ones in the hospital, but also the patients themselves.
      Again, thank you so much for sharing, it really means a lot to me :)

  2. I love these ideas! Each year, our church participates in a program called Angel Tree, where we buy gifts for children who’s parents are incarcerated. Our church is given a large number of tags, and each tag has a child’s name on it and one thing they would like for Christmas this year. The tag also includes a brief note from the child’s incarcerated parent. We can select one, two or several tags to fulfill. Once we purchase the gift(s), we wrap it and then stick the parent’s note on it so the child will know this gift is really from their loved one. We even have teams of people who deliver these gifts right to their doors before Christmas.

    I look forward to this every year! And so many of our church member participate; we always fulfill every tag we receive and usually run out! We have even started an in-house Angel Tree where we help out parents in our own church who cannot afford to provide gifts for their children. It is totally anonymous so no one has to feel ashamed to sign up for it.

    The spirit of giving to others just as Christ gave to us is what really brings true joy to the holidays. Being 26 myself, I really admire another young person who writes such an uplifting blog and ideas to inspire others.

    You are doing a great thing, keep this up!

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