Monday, December 15, 2008

A Different Christmas Spirit

I don't know about you, but I'm having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit this year. Oh, not the celebration of Christ's birth, but the rest of it, especially shopping and wrapping gifts.

We keep getting news of another friend, another breadwinner, losing their job. We were hearing all those dire predictions about another Depression around the corner...and now just because it's December, we're supposed to be loading up on luxuries?

Even the things we think we "need"--another pair of jeans, a new pair of shoes--seem extravagant compared to the needs of people in other parts of the world. When you realize that every 5 seconds, a child dies of hunger, it starts to make you think that maybe you could go without a few more things.

Not that me wearing my old tennies for a few more months is going to change the world, of course. The problem of world hunger is huge, complicated, and not mine to solve.

But what is mine to do is raise children who care, who look not only to their own interests, but also to the needs of others.

And for a few reasons, this seemed like a good year to propose a sacrifice from our family. Our older kids are aware enough to be worried about the uncertain economic climate. We all know several men who are out of work, and all of us know families who have been struggling financially for some time. They know that our own family's economic belt has been tight lately, as we try to recover from the expenses of selling a house, moving, and buying a larger house.

When Thanksgiving rolled around and the only child who had handed me a Christmas list was Bantam17--who has a year-round obsession with lists (he wants Lego sets, as usual)--we felt it was confirmation that this might be a good year to suggest getting into a different Christmas spirit.

We started out by reading this little story to our kids. (Go ahead and read it--it's worth a few more moments. I'll wait....)

We ad-libbed from there, talking about how much we have and reminding them of others in need. We recalled the six-month period when Papa Rooster was suddenly unemployed, and how much it blessed us to receive grocery store and gas station gift cards anonymously in the mail. We informed our "bottomless pits" of people who subsist on only one bowl of rice a day. Then we pulled out the catalog from World Vision, showing how relatively little it cost to give a poor family a chicken or a goat or a share of a water buffalo (the boys liked that one). What if we used the money we would have spent on Christmas gifts for gifts like these?

Wait--you mean, no presents for Christmas? they asked.

Well, we explained, there will still be presents from grandparents and other extended family members. And there are a few presents for each of you that we have already bought ahead--small things, though, and things Mom picked up secondhand. There will probably be a few more things for the two youngest. But no, you won't give us a list of your big-ticket hope-fors.

Okay, we just wondered. Yeah, it's a good idea, they responded, some with more, some with less resignation.


...To be continued? We shall see.

(Has your family ever done anything like this for Christmas? What did you do to avoid let-down at the normal gift-opening time?)


Anonymous said...

hi J -
we're doing the same with the World Vision catalog for our parents and siblings. Each of our kids is getting 2 things from us [kids are 10, 6, 4, and 12 weeks], not big things... and the grandparents will surely make up the rest.. time for all of us to cut back, and to pay REAL attention to 'the least of these'....

Melinda said...

I admit we have never done this. We have, however had some very small Christmasses gift wise out of necessity. This year my hubby and I are going without in order to give the children a nice Christmas, but we have spent more time than usual to make them aware of just what the cost of gifts could do for the truly needy. The older girls are very aware of our family's financial struggles and voluntarily only asked for a few small things. Our little one doesn't typically get a huge pile of presents, therefore she has not come to expect them and is excited by just a few new toys.

Summer said...

Jeanne - I know our kids are young, but we've never gone "all out." We were afraid to set that trend early on. So, each gets two presents and that's it. We're doing the same thing, though, with my parents this year. Both sets of my parents have agreed to make a donation in our name. I'm doing the same for them. I'm wrapping a note with the info in a box so that they'll have something to open from us. It's a great idea. I had hoped that the "W" family would forego gifts this year as it is a tough economy.

MomCO3 said...

Thanks for this. I think the "to be continued" must include the reality that we are inundated all the time with the media blitz of more-more-more. So the first step is to question that (as you've done) and then let the little changes we make sink in. After all, faith is living like we belive it, right?