When they announced that “Black Friday” deals were going to begin on Thanksgiving night, I was really peeved. More and more it feels like the holidays are being rushed. We were barely out of Halloween before Christmas decorations filled the aisles.
But it was more than that.
Beginning “Black Friday” deals before people had digested their evening turkey also meant that people had to be at work, when really they should be able to enjoy the holiday. The focus then shifting to consumer consumption, rather than appreciation for the gifts, freedoms and blessings we already have.
The holidays are often hard to navigate and it’s easy to get caught up in the buying frenzy—it’s just part of this time of year. However, they can also be beautiful and an amazing demonstration of our compassion for giving and thinking beyond just ourselves and our needs.
Each year we work with our kids to focus on “giving with a purpose.” There are so many ways to do this: buying food for a food pantry; adopting a family for Christmas and getting needed items; or even encouraging our kids to drop a coin from their piggy bank into the Salvation Army’s bucket. It really doesn’t take much to encourage kids to think beyond themselves.
This year, our family focused on three different activities:
There are so many sites that offer ways to brighten a deployed soldier’s holiday. Some have you make stockings to fill, others ask for specific items that they can assemble into a package, or others offer you a direct connection to a soldier requesting a package. Here is a website that lists several organizations that send care packages in a variety of ways:
For us, we decided to send something to a few soldiers we selected off of Anysoldier.com. What’s really cool about this site is that you can pick who you want to send things to. The soldiers list where they are, how many are in their group of each gender, and what their needs are so you can make your package very specific. We all sat together and reviewed the possibilities until my kids each picked out a soldier.
We began our idea with sending a fake tree and I worked with the kids to create homemade, non-breakable ornaments for it. Soon the neighbors came over and suddenly I had a house full of kids working on ornaments and creating a paper garland for decoration. These decorations were supplemented with requested items like toiletries, snacks, baby wipes and a few fun treats.
Everyone knows of Toys for Tots and we have contributed towards their drive in the past. However, there are also local organizations that will collect gently used toys and repackage them for children in need.
The mix of both results in a larger pool of toys. And, as an added bonus, it clears out toys that are no longer used or played with. I will warn you though, sometimes it is hard for a child to let go of a toy—even if they don’t play with it anymore. This issue can be reduced if the child focuses on the fact that the toy isn’t just going into a box but rather to another little boy or girl who is excited to play with it.
I personally don’t have experience with these resources, as we have had several local groups host their own used toy drives, but to get you thinking, here are some resources that may be helpful:
This is by far my favorite. Nine years ago I began a tradition in our house called “Cookiefest.” The intent being that we gather, bake cookies and assemble packages for distribution. Some go to friends but many go to those who are sometimes forgotten during the holidays: police officers, firemen, the trash collector, newspaper delivery person, postman, clergy, and elderly neighbors.
We gather friends and there is a table just for kids to decorate cookies. Those not decorating are assigned a recipe and we go from there. The end of the day is a big potluck and often we have stragglers still baking, decorating and chatting well into the night.
Last year to organize it, I even made a spreadsheet–my project manager side shining through–to make sure I had enough of each ingredient and could time things well.
I’m a dork- but I felt I needed to do it—we were up to making over 1,000 cookies for distribution. It’s grown to the point that there is now a cookie exchange as part of the mix which adds a great assortment to the cookies sent out.
These are only some ideas, but I wanted to share them because I see their value in two ways. First, they are helping to teach the lesson of “giving with a purpose.” Secondly, and maybe selfishly, I know that they are helping to create memories that my children and many of our friends and their children will treasure for years to come.