The Gift of Giving
‘Tis the season to … be running from store to store to get that one hot item for our kids for Christmas. Sadly, gift-giving has come to focus on gift-getting. Everywhere we take our children they are asked, “What do you want for Christmas?” I wonder what people would think if a six-year-old said, “I want to give my friend a box of books because they don’t have many books in their house. My friend likes to read.”
Learning to give rather than get is hard in our society, which puts emphasis on stuff … any kind of stuff. The saying “the one who dies with the most toys wins” seems to be upper most in many minds. We need to make a concerted effort to teach our children the best part is giving, not getting.
The act of giving needs to be built on a foundation. As Christians, our foundation is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his Son.” Not only does this verse convey the “what” of giving but also the why—love. It begins with love.
Love is caught not taught. Our children learn it from the way we treat each other in the family and how we parents treat our neighbors. Love also is conveyed in how we treat strangers. When we lived near a homeless shelter, we gave to the strangers by serving holiday meals. The smiles and thank you’s were a gift in return.
Jesus taught us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44). How often do we think about or teach giving something to someone we don’t like? Maybe we should do that more often. Never know where love can grow. Even the simple gift of a greeting card may heal a wound, melt a frosty relationship, or open the doors to a budding friendship.
Gifts don’t always need to be tangible. It can be helping others, giving of ourselves to others. Think of a time when one of our little ones offered to do a simple task for us when it seemed chaos was reigning. You know the scene. The baby is crying. The mac and cheese is boiling over. Your little one asked if he can put the napkins on the table for you. What a gift of love.
Giving of our time is a much-needed gift, especially in the holiday season. I know, we all think we’re too busy right now. It doesn’t have to be hours; it can be a few moments. My boys loved going to sit with our next-door neighbor when his wife went to the store. He was wheelchair bound. Not only did they enjoy talking and learning from him, they also loved him and his wife so much it was a pleasure to help. My guys gave the gift of time and love.
Maybe you think it will take years before your child learns to give and give graciously. Not so. Children delight in seeing another person happy when there’s an opportunity to give a gift. Who hasn’t received a bouquet of dandelions because our preschooler wanted to make us happy? How about a handful of snails? True story, my friend’s four-year-old brought in a pile of snails so her mommy could play with them too.
As we emphasize giving is about the joy and pleasure of the other person, it will soon be natural. Giving takes effort, whether it’s gathering up snails, making a card, or picking out the perfect necklace. Our children learn their effort reaps rewards when they see the delight of the recipient.
Two cautions when teaching gift giving. Sometimes giving becomes a contest: Who can give the biggest or most expensive gift? Or what great gift will I get in return? Both of these attitudes take the love out of giving.
It’s never too late to start teaching the traits that build up to giving. This holiday season we can encourage our children to learn the fun of doing something or creating something for others. Maybe they can create a list with the gifts they’d like to give others instead of what they want.
We give our children a lifetime gift by teaching them from the foundation of love it truly is “more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35).
Susan K. Stewart, Nonfiction Managing Editor with Elk Lake Publishing, teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. Susan’s passion is to inspire readers with practical, real-world solutions. Her books include Science in the Kitchen, Preschool: At What Cost?, Harried Homeschoolers Handbook, and the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. Her latest book, Donkey Devos: Listening to you donkey when God speaks, is scheduled to be released spring 2021. You can learn more at her website www.practicalinspirations.com.