Christmas time is full of traditions in our family: the cookies, the decorations, the ornaments, the holiday movies, the activities, the music. It can be a sensory overload at times! And while we SAY it’s more important to give than to receive, it can be hard to demonstrate this to a child who sees commercials with fun new toys, and all the overstocked aisles at any store you go to are specifically marketed so that your tot will know what all his/her friends will be asking Santa for as well.
I thought we were doing a pretty good job as a family by participating in acts of service throughout our church and community, but my daughter’s selfish attitude last holiday season was so unnerving I decided we needed to really try to focus on more ways we can give this season. And while we are at it…..why not combine it with a newer tradition that she loved last year….the Elf on the Shelf. Last year he just hid in various spots and she enjoyed finding him each day (We didn’t focus on the whole “he’s watching your every move to report to Santa business”). This year we decided to hide him in specific spots with a mission card nearby each day of ways we can put our words about giving into action. I’ve composed a list of acts of service I hope we can accomplish this year and in parentheses a corresponding hiding idea for the elf. I’d love it if you shared some of your ideas in the comments!
- Give to the homeless. Host a playdate with a purpose like Anna blogged about last year, or do this with your small group at church. Each person that comes brings different items that can be placed in a small bag to be handed to the homeless people seen on the streets. Some item ideas include kleenex, toothbrush/paste, bandaids, socks, gloves, deodarant, soap, granola bars or crackers, or hand sanitizer. Kids will love to assemble the bags and decorate them. (The elf could be hiding with some paper bags and markers)
- Give to your neighbors. We see them and wave, we chat at the mailbox, our kids play in the yard, we pass out newsletters and attend neighborhood meetings, but now is a great time to knock on a door and let them know you care! It can be something as simple as a bag of homemade cookies or a little ornament. (Elf can hide with the gift you plan to give them or near the front door)
- Give to your church staff or Bible teachers. Having worked at a church once myself, most people have no idea what goes on behind the scenes at a church and how much serving those ministers and secretaries do! Not to mention the prep time teachers put forth to educate your children each Sunday. A simple thank you note or Christmas card is simple enough! (Elf can hide with the Bibles or nativity)
- Give to the teachers and school staff. These people give so much to our kids’ lives now it’s time we can give back! Maybe something made by your child or an edible holiday item. It doesn’t have to cost much to say you care! (Elf can hide with the treat items you plan to bake)
- Give cards to your family and friends. This is something most of us do anyway during this season so why not enlist the kids to help? My daughter loves to put stickers and stamps on cards and sign her own name. Or let your child take their own money to pick out small gifts for them at Dollar Tree (Elf can hide with stamps and envelopes or by picture of family members)
- Give cards to sick people or shut-ins. Many of us know people in the hospital or who are too sick to get out much. We might see their name on the prayer list at church but how about we reach out to them and send them a card letting them know we are thinking of them this season. (Elf can be hiding in the medicine cabinet or with a thermometer and tissue nearby)
- Give your time to a good cause. There are lots of ways you can serve this season. Soup kitchens, homeless shelters (like City Rescue), church programs, food pantries, raking leaves, etc. Our small group at church plans to cook and serve a meal at the Ronald McDonald house in December. (Elf can be hiding with your kitchen utensils) Our church also hosts a pajama drive for a specific organization (Elf can hide in PJ drawer)
- Give a meal to someone. Plan ahead and double your dinner recipe to take to an elderly neighbor or someone who just had a baby. Maybe you don’t have time to whip something up in between holiday plans but you can run by and get something to go and drop it by their house. (Elf can hide in the fridge)
- Give to a family in need. Our family participates in giving a family in another country a gift through WorldVision each year. We look at the catalog together and pick out something that can help someone in need, most of us don’t think of giving a chicken or goat for Christmas but its a huge blessing to those in underprivileged countries. (Elf can be hiding with the WorldVision mag)
- Give to a child in need. Many places offer angel trees with gift ideas for a child in need this season. Or sign up through OK foster wishes. Take your child with you and pick gender and age specific gifts. You could go in together with some friends if the cost is too high. (Elf can hide in the Christmas tree)
- Give the gift of Christmas spirit and go caroling! We used to go to nursing homes when I was younger but you can go to your neighbors or friends houses and belt out a few bars to brighten their day! (Elf can hide with musical instruments or sheet music)
- Give more than just once. There are many places that have “adopt a child” programs like Compassion Care where you can sponsor a child every month. (see the awesome interactive display at Church of the Servant this month!) Your money helps pay for their education and food. You receive letters and information about them throughout the year. (Elf can be hiding by computer ready to watch a youtube video about helping others in need)
- Give to a food pantry. We have one at our church, but we also have the Regional Food Bank of OKC that you can donate food or your time too if your child is old enough to volunteer. (Elf can hide in pantry with canned goods)
- Give to Community helpers. Leave a note or small gift to your garbage men or mail men. Or go all out and take donuts to local fire station or police station (Elf can hide with garbage bags or in mail slot. Elf can bring donuts and build snowman with them)
- Give your time to help your neighbors out in snowy weather by shoveling their drive or sprinkling salt on their porch steps. (Elf can be making snow angel–in flour or sugar–on table or counter)
- Give to Veterans. Think of those who are serving our country but are unable to be with their families at the holidays. You can send a care package or card to someone who is over seas. Or put flowers on a grave of someone who served our country. (Elf can hide with army men toys or an American flag)
The possibilities are endless, but these will help give you a few ideas if you’d like to incorporate more giving in your holiday calendar! Remember giving doesn’t always have to equal money, look around your house and see what you already have. Taking the time to sit down with your children and remember those around us who need a thank you, a card, a hug, or some extra attention is what is most important.