I am one of the lucky ones. I was blessed with wonderful, loving parents who made every holiday special. My sister and I woke up Christmas morning to find that Santa had come, filled our stockings, and left us almost everything on our lists. Almost everything…but, even though Santa could have brought it all, we knew we were indeed very fortunate for the gifts we had received. This was a lesson our parents made sure we learned. It is also one I wanted my children and grandchildren to understand and embrace – that, although we all love to get presents, there is a warm feeling you get knowing you have helped someone else. Young children may not be able to grasp this concept, but leading by example eventually has an impact.
When I was a little girl (wow, that was a long time ago), I had a favorite dress. I loved wearing it as often as my mother let me. As it was meant to be worn for church, parties, or special occasions, it wasn’t as often as I would have liked. I remember that I loved the colors, pattern, and feel of the dress, but most of all, it was the way it twirled. I turned in circles as it billowed out in just the perfect way. One day my mom was gathering things to donate. Our church volunteered at a local orphanage helping in many ways. Several times a year, donations were gathered at church, and volunteers delivered them to the orphanage. There were items that were sold in their shop to provide needed funds, but children’s clothes went into a closet to outfit the children who lived there. I saw my dress go into the donation box. I begged my mom not to give it away. Her explaining to me that it no longer fit and some other little girl could wear it and get joy from it did not make a difference to me. I did not care – it was my dress. Of course, the dress was donated.
Several weeks later, our church had its annual Christmas celebration. It started with the typical children’s pageant, then a dinner, and a visit from Santa. The children from the orphanage attended. Santa gave every child a beautiful bell (I still have my collection), carols were sung, and candy canes were eaten. I had been so absorbed in my own little world – being with my friends and family – that I hadn’t even noticed any of the other children. With the party almost over, I looked around the room to find a friend I wanted to invite to come over the next day. My eyes caught sight of a little girl twirling, she had a big smile on her face and laughed in such a way that was infectious. It was how I felt when I wore that very dress. I will never forget the incredibly happy feeling I had in seeing the joy it was bringing someone else.
Like all children, my grandkids will have a list of things they want from Santa. He will bring them some, but not all they wish for. They will see their parents and grandparents donate toys, put money in the red kettle, take a name off an angel tree, buy food to help stock the local food pantry, or just do random acts of kindness. These are not just done during this season but throughout the year. The children may not say anything about it, but they do notice. I have seen the two older grandchildren get to the age of appreciating how satisfying it is to help others less fortunate.
So, this year and every year, give your grandchildren not only gifts to unwrap, but show by example how their giving to others will bring them joy as well. May you and your loved ones have a wonderful Christmas or whatever you celebrate this season.