Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Spirit of Christmas

If you've been to the stores at all since Halloween, I'm sure you've seen the Christmas decor. Every store is eagerly pushing Christmas presents, candy, decorations, and more in everyone's faces.

Now I love Christmas, don't get me wrong. It's my favorite holiday. But I do struggle with businesses pushing the next holiday as soon as one ends. If you buy your Christmas candy now, chances are you'll eat it before Christmas and then have to buy more. You'll buy your presents for the year, but week after week of seeing more options, you'll buy a few more things.

It's a good business practice, but not one I admire, especially for Christmas. It's so easy to get sucked into the "getting" part of Christmas. So, yes, I know it's early, but because of the nature of this post, it needs to be early!

Every week my daughter goes to a Wednesday night class at church. Because of the long drive, I stay until it's over and sit in a hall, out of the way and write. I even have a table and chair now! For awhile now, there's been a box wrapped in Christmas paper by my table. It's not a large box, and it has some assorted items in it. This past Wednesday, I finally asked about it. Next week the kids will be taking whatever has been donated in that box and packing shoeboxes to send to kids in underprivileged countries.
The fact that I'm right there every week and have a daughter in the class and haven't heard about this tells me the other parents are probably unaware as well. I struggled with if I should or shouldn't write this post because I'm not here to look down on everyone or pat myself on the back. But I couldn't get it out of my mind. 

I've bought my children's presents, and we have a tree that'll go up and ornaments to go on it. But I couldn't stop thinking about how many children around the world won't have that. They may be short on clothes, food, heat as well. Isn't part of Christmas about giving? About looking beyond our little bubble and doing some good. No, we'll never reach everyone, but we could make a difference in at least one child's life. 

A few days later, I took my daughter(she's 4) to the dollar store. Nothing fancy, but that's okay. I explained to her as best I could how she and her siblings had all the presents in the corner wrapped up, but that their were other kids who won't have presents. I told her we were going to pick out some things for them. They wouldn't be for her, but for her to give away. 

I wanted her to be a part of it and not just do it for her. I want to instill a generous spirit in her, and all of my children. So we went shopping. She wanted to pick out the biggest toys there were for the kids, but I had to explain about shoebox size LOL. 

We had a lot of fun picking out things kids would like that weren't breakable, perishable, needed batteries, etc. Some things we got that I hope will be fun are coloring books, some sticker/crayons/picture combos, a few stuffed animals, some character figures, puzzles, crayons, cars, and necklaces.

What I want to do is share the idea of reaching outside your home this year. I know so many of us worry about money and think we can't give enough to be worth it. But that's the beauty of community and lots of hands that give. Every gift, every dollar, every box or stocking helps. We don't need to save the world, we can just make one little kids day.

So this Christmas season, I want to challenge you to reach out. I want to advocate making the holidays special for not just you, but for someone else.

There's lots of ways to get involved. Maybe you know someone in your community who could use some cheer. Free wood for a furnace, a free Christmas tree, the offer of watching someone's pets for free while they travel to see family, helping someone with their shopping, paying for the person in front of you at the grocery store.

There's the shoebox program that my daughter is doing. 
Samaritan's Purse is an outreach program that loads shoeboxes with whatever you can fit in it(barring some things like liquids, war toys, etc. which they will list on their site) that they then collect and ship to children in other countries. Last year my daughter's class had their boxes sent to Guatemala.

This is a great one for hitting places like the dollar store that have little things that fit easily in a box, but you can also add shirts, socks, in addition to toys and hygiene items.

Angel tree reaches out to families in the US who have a parent in prison. Not only are these children who will be missing a parent on Christmas, but these our mother's or father's who are missing a spouse. Angel tree connects the parent in prison to their family. The parent in prison signs up for the program and then makes a list of what they think their children would like. This is a great one to organize with a church where a tree is set up and people can choose an angel off the tree with a family, or a child's name on it and shop for them.

You can also donate directly on their website where volunteers will do the shopping and delivery.

Solder's Angels and A Soldier's Child reach out to deployed troops and family's of both active soldier's and veterans. What I really love about Soldier's Angels is that they don't just have options to donate money or gifts, but you can adopt a family, or a soldier. Plus they have opportunities for people who are more creatively inclined and prefer homemade gifts. Handcrafted items are a great way to add a personal touch, brighten someone's day, and perhaps work more within your budget or personal talents.

Be an Elf is a site where you are forwarded letters to Santa and then respond with mailing a gift to the child!

Make a Wish is about donating money or gifts towards fulfilling a child's wish. These are children who've been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.

Obviously this is just a few, and I tried to find wider covering ones. There's lot of state and local opportunities to give and support people during Christmas. Other countries will have different organizations as well, but I wanted to give people a place to start for ideas. :)

It doesn't have to be grand or expensive. Believe me when I say, I get it! We went super stingy mode with our grocery shopping this week so that we could buy gifts for the shoeboxes. Luckily the kids love PB&J and pasta! And my husband and I don't mind living off tacos and salad for a week. All that to say, I hope this encourages people to find some way to help out in their community or around the world. I'm excited about this, my daughter's excited. She couldn't stop telling the cashier that the presents were "for the kids!!"
Because it takes time to plan out this stuff, or ship it, that's why I'm doing this post now, to give people some time if they want to do a similar idea. And I wanted to put the idea in people's heads. So while the season is upon us and we're grumping that it's too soon(guilty), or dreading family get-togethers(no point in denying it! I know some people do!), or getting so caught up in the panicky rush we forget to remember the spirit of the season.

Light up someone's Christmas this year. :) Nothing is too small to make a difference. And it's a great lesson for us and our children to think about other people and have a generous heart.


  1. Great post :) In my week off this week, I'm spending three days at the Samaritan's Purse shoebox warehouse near me, where we double check all the shoeboxes. I'll try and remember to take a few pics for Cheyenne! I've done it for a few years now, as my church is a collection point for shoeboxes. Ours are going to Asia this year.

    You know I'm not one for Christmas as the commercialism gets me down... but seeing the love that goes into producing these thousands of shoeboxes gives me a bit of Christmas spirit :)

    1. That's awesome! This is the first I've heard of Samaritan's Purse. My family did Angel Tree a few years when I was a kid. We'd love to see photos! I'm excited to find out where ours will be going.

      I love Christmas, but for me it's never been about the commercialism. I think that in a small town in a rural state, it's easier to not get overwhelmed by it all.

      It's great that every year you get a reminder of how generous people can be.

  2. This is a wonderful post, Kristen! Thank you so much for sharing. :) My church has had an Angel Tree for years--been a long time since I've attended church but I remember when I was younger how we'd get a few gifts each year for the tree.

    My GS troup also baked cookies several years in a row, which we packed in tins with Christmas cards to send to soldiers across the sea--don't remember what organization that was through, but I do remember that we received letters back sometimes, thanking us for our cookies and cards, and that always brought tears to my eyes.

    I hate how commercialized the holidays have become. However, I love how kind and generous people can be at this time of year, and that always renews my faith in humanity. :)

    1. Thank you, Heather. I loved doing Angel Tree when I was younger. It was so much fun to try and pick out the perfect gifts.

      I love the idea of sending cookies and cards to our troops. It's amazing how much a small gesture can effect people because we never know when our little kindness has come when a person needs it most.

  3. Fantastic post. Just yesterday, my husband and I were in a store and saw the Salvation Army's Angel Tree. We don't have a lot of money what with us both being students, but we saw there was a little four-year-old kid who wanted dinosaurs for Christmas and my husband and I were both like, "Yes! A reason to buy dinosaur things!" So we're saving up to buy the kid some clothes and some dinosaur stuff.

    I know some people get annoyed about Angel Tree on account of it going to the children of prisoners, but to be quite frank, I don't think the kids should suffer more than they already do because mom or dad made a crappy life decision. I refuse to be the arbiter of which kids are most deserving. Something a wise man said about casting stones, comes to mind. /rant

    Anyhow, thanks for the thought-provoking post. And it's cool that you're getting your daughter involved in seeing the world as a larger place at a young age. Hooray for teaching people about the needs of others! :)

    1. That's so awesome, Melion! I'm glad to hear it. :) I'm sure they'll love getting their dinosaurs! I bought some for L this Christmas, and C and I were watching dinosaur movies last night. Definitely a hit item with kids.

      I love Angel Tree and remember buying stuff for it as a kid. I think we can all stand to remember that a child is NEVER to blame for things their parent(s) has/have done. It's easy to take anger/frustration out on a child, but they're not to blame and I love that people are reaching out to kids who are already missing out on having a parent. They shouldn't have to miss out on gifts for Christmas as well. :)

      She's already asking when we get to go to her class Lol. I'm like, you have to wait.

  4. Lovely post, Kristen. Our church promotes Samaritan's Purse, and the video the organisiation does each year of the kids getting their boxes is lovely - such smiles! You might like looking at one with your kids so they can see where the presents are going.

    1. Thank you. :) It's a really cool outreach program and I'm so glad I found out about it. Great idea on the video. After we pack everything up Wednesday, I'll have to show her one so she sees what happens.