The holiday season is a time that brings more emotion to the surface than any other time of year. Sometimes we are reminded of those we have lost. That loss weighs more heavily on us when the holidays are approaching. But it also helps us to be thankful and grateful for what we still have. And while those painful feelings might be magnified during this time of year, it’s important to remember that we have the capability to affect change, and to allow our pain and loss to shape a more promising future for others.
Years ago, when I was pregnant with Max, I worked in an office and I had decorated my desk and office for Christmas and was listening to Christmas music while I worked. A coworker, an older gentleman, stopped in and asked my why I loved Christmas so much. He wondered if it was because I like getting presents. I laughed. Of course, who doesn’t love getting presents?! But actually, no. I do love giving presents. I love the look on peoples’ faces when you give them something they love. I love the lights at Christmas, and the decorations. I love the sentiment of Christmas’ past and I love the music. I love that we gather with the people we love.
But the thing I love about Christmas is actually even more than that. The holidays are a time for reflection, and I truly believe that a miracle happens. This beautiful, incredible thing happens. We open ourselves up to possibility, and to hope, and to generosity. We become the thing that we really want to see in the world. We are more generous, we are more thoughtful, and we are giving of ourselves to others. Even people who aren’t Christians and aren’t celebrating the birth of Christ, participate in that miracle.
Helping others gives us a feeling that is hard to describe. It’s a feeling that I would say is the closest we feel to being a part of something bigger, and better than the things we know. It’s a universal connection, and when we open ourselves up in that way, when we sacrifice or help or heal, we become a part of that connection. And we feel it.
I recently read a great article online about something I could do at my children’s birthday parties. I always tell people that gifts aren’t necessary, but everyone still brings one. Our home is full of toys. And so, I took the idea from this article and applied it to my son’s birthday party and decided that this is what we would do from now on.
Guests were welcome to bring a gift if they wanted to, but they could choose the alternative of bringing money in an amount that was divisible by 3. Then we took the money and divided it among 3 jars. The first went into my son’s piggy bank, which teaches him to save money. The second jar was money he could have and use to buy whatever he wanted to. The third jar would go to charity.
We chose the Humane Society as our charity because the children are so young, we wanted them to physically participate in the act of giving. I think that if the act is more palpable, they will understand a bit better about what it is that we are doing. And as they grow up, this will become a practice in their lives. We called the Humane Society and asked what they needed, and then we went to the store. At this time, we are also participating in a Pay-It-Forward at church. So we took the money from our church, matched it, and then added Bennett’s charity jar money. We purchased the items and went to deliver them and visited the dogs and cats!
It was an incredible day, and while my children might not yet understand it, in time I know they will. And the gift of teaching them to save money and to act charitably is a greater gift than any toy they would have received. As they get older, we will introduce them to other charities and they will be able to decide where that money goes all by themselves. And in this way, we can continue to make the world a better place even more than we have been in the past.
Here’s a video of our experience! Thanks for reading, and Happy Holidays my friends!