Saturday, December 3, 2011

giving the family gift

My favorite part of Christmas each year is the gift my siblings give to each other and to our parents.

We rotate each year being responsible for finding a way to help those in need in our communities.  Each family sends money so that there is a considerable amount to spend on something meaningful.  The one in charge finds a way to use the money, preferably in a tangible way, rather than just donating it to an institution.  Often, our children help us buy gifts for homeless children, about their same ages.  My husband and I participate in something similar each year with our kids, but we enjoy immensely the years that we are responsible for the family Christmas gift, because we have so much more to give.

It is a wonderful way to help my children remember that the most important part about Christmas, the one that reaches deep down inside of us, is finding ways to give to others, to sacrifice for others, to stretch ourselves and be able to give meaningful gifts to others, especially others that are less fortunate then we are.  It is a wonderful interactive experience as we talk about the birth of Jesus Christ, how much He loves each one of Heavenly Father's children, and how we can share his love with others as we sacrifice our own wants and desires to give to others.

We share the experiences we have through pictures and descriptions with my siblings and their children.  We also combine pictures and details into a letter for our mom and dad, describing what we gave - together - to help those in need.

We are in charge of the gift this year, so I am currently looking for charitable opportunities this Christmas.  This article caught my eye: Giving Where It Works.  There are some interesting (well researched) ideas in the article.  I was particularly touched by the Washington D.C., Youth Court project; it gives "first-time, nonviolent teenage offenders an alternative" to the juvenile justice system, "where [they] will learn to be a real criminal."  Though not quite close enough to home for us to use for the family Christmas gift, it gave me ideas for opportunities to look for in our own community.


Jamie Lamb said...

That is so wonderful! Your family is such an inspiration to me--I'm going to go tell my husband about this "family gift" and make it a part of our Christmas from now on. LOVE it! Thanks for sharing. :)

Jamie Lamb said...

...hmm...we're having trouble coming up with ideas for this. any suggestions from years past? thanks :)

Liz said...

My family has often "piggy-backed" on projects that the YW in the ward are doing - especially when they are buying gifts for children, like foster kids, refugee families, or families in need in the neighborhood. One year we bought gifts for a "store" that a local elementary school put together for the refugee families at the school - they could then come and "shop" for Christmas for their children (at no cost). One year my sister bought for two foster children. I think she just called the local child welfare department to find out how she could help. One year we bought gifts for a few kids in a family that needed extra help that was in our ward (one of them was in my Sunday School class so we knew them well). Another year we bought gifts and took a big ham dinner to a family we met at school who was struggling a bit (new baby and mother with health problems in the hospital).

My only stipulation is that my children can feel involved - and that it be in our own community. I think it would also be great to give money and explain to the kids how it will help someone, but I really want my kids to have experiences and memories from each Christmas.

I would suggest talking to people at church and at your local elementary school first, and then maybe branching from there to government agencies nearby... Let me know! I can talk to my sisters to get more details about what they have done.

This year I finally called my kids' elementary school after not receiving any information on projects in the school newsletter or PTA newsletter. There is no apparent need of any of the families in our ward this year, and there are no projects going on in any of the organizations (so surprising to me!). The school told me about another church that sponsors the schools' needs, (recently they offered to donate Thanksgiving meals to families of children at the school that might need them - we actually got a call from the school to see if we would like one - since we qualify for everything under the sun - apparently.) Anyways, they send people that want to help families to the community church, which then calls the school to find out how they can help new or under-privileged families at the school.

Sorry I am going on and on. Good luck! I am excited for your family - it changes our focus a lot each year - even my kids'!