Giving up on giving back

December 6, 2011 by Carrie Cherry
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            I’ve been feeling abundantly blessed lately. I have a beautiful, healthy, smart, sweet, funny… I could go on but you get the point… daughter. I have family, friends, health, a job, a roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep in, plenty to eat and clothes to wear (even if I’m severely lacking in appropriate winter attire after five years in Florida).

            And as we approach Christmas I’m feeling especially compelled to give back.

            I also want to teach my daughter to appreciate all that she has and to help others who aren’t as fortunate as we are. But as I’m learning, that’s a hard lesson to teach a 5-year-old.

            The church where she goes to preschool was collecting toys for a giveaway program. I thought this would be a good place to start. The plan was to go to Target, buy a few things and drop them off. Simple, right?

            We lovingly selected some Hello Kitty items. What little girl wouldn’t love some Hello Kitty coloring books and hair ribbons and stationary? My little girl sure would. So much so that she didn’t want to drop off the goodies in the collection bin. She likes Hello Kitty too. Those ribbons and papers should be hers, she loudly informed me.

            Trying to explain to a preschooler that she already has a roomful of toys and we needed to give these to someone who didn’t went over like a lead balloon.

            I ended up prying the bag out of her death grip.

            Last week, we participated in V100’s Secret Santa program. We were given a 12-year-old girl who wanted a fishing pole, board games and hair accessories. This time, I did my shopping alone. I let Julia help me wrap them and she even went with me to drop them off. Without incident.

            Whew, I thought she was finally getting it.

            Then the questions came.

            Why are we buying presents for this girl? Because her family needs a little extra help with Christmas this year.

            Why isn’t Santa bringing her presents? Uh, oh, um…

            OH CRAP!

            (See above where I mentioned that I was thankful for my smart daughter.)

            I wasn’t prepared for that. Luckily, she moved on to the next thing.

Can I watch Phineas and Ferb? Yes, yes you can. Here’s the remote. Watch all day. Do you want a cookie?

I think I’m the one who needs a lesson here. How do you teach your children to count their blessings and to help others?

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8 Responses to “Giving up on giving back”

  1. StacyNo Gravatar says:

    This is exactly what Cara Bailey and I were talking about. How do you explain this? How do you explain that what’s under our tree is radically different than what is under everyone elses. That your wish list isn’t granted because sometimes Santa knows what you need better than you do. That the goodies we give to the angles on the tree maybe exactly what you want, but you are not getting it.

    We use a lot of media to help us a long the way. A lot of conversations. A lot of fighting back against the system. There is also a lot of keeping quiet. This year we decided to lead by example. We are not asking our children for a wish list. We are not talking to them about the angle tree. We are just having a Christmas and a winter holiday season. We are fulfilling wishes and giving and we are not discussing it with the children. If they ask, then we shall answer succinctly and have appropriate answers, but we are not starting those conversation, not this year. I need time to think about it.

    Some of the answer I have heard are that Santa does some gifts, but friends and family do others. That the children on the tree may not have the kind of friends and family who can give (although I don’t believe this myself any longer). I have also heard it explained that the material spoils are a distraction from the hardships. I am having a hard time with this one myself and I look forward to reading other responses.

    • CarrieNo Gravatar says:

      I think you’re right about just doing it and making it a part of our Christmas tradition. We give back. That’s just what we do. I also fear explaining more — such as some people lost their jobs and don’t have enough money to buy Christmas gifts — will bring big-time worry to her little heart. What if mommy loses her job? What if we can’t pay the bills? What if there’s no Christmas for me? It’s hard to try to balance the reality of the world with not scaring our kids to death.

  2. CaraNo Gravatar says:

    We’ve just started teaching about charity and making the whole family an active part. Not just because of the holiday season, but because of my son’s age, this seemed like a good time to start. We don’t have a lot of extra money to give, so we’re volunteering our time and gifting items we already have, or can make. He loves to share, when he wants. We’re just trying to avoid the “mine” phase (I’ve learned it’s unavoidable), but also teach that it makes us happy to make other people happy. So far, it’s working. Now we just have to keep from becoming lazy.

  3. Karan I.No Gravatar says:

    My children (11 and 8) both asked a little about why we would be Secret Santas when there’s already a real, NON-secret Santa who lives at the North Pole and flies around the world giving presents to all the children (“haven’t you HEARD?!”).

    I explained that parents help Santa out and so, we were doing for this little girl and her family what they weren’t in a position to do now. My son, when we were shopping for the girl’s toys, said, “Uh, then should we really be getting her TOYS? Wouldn’t she need other stuff more?” So, really, there was a lot of room for discussion on wants/needs, generosity, anonymous giving, etc. It was good for all of us.

    But, what I really want to address here is your brilliant use of “yes, yes you can”.

  4. Karan I.No Gravatar says:

    That smiley face with the sunglasses should be an 8 and a parenthesis.)

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