One of my favorites from the archives…

service centered chirstmas

During a conversation yesterday with my 6-year-old son, I was explaining some of our upcoming Christmas plans. The conversation quickly turned into one of those priceless, that’s-not-what-I-meant moments. His blue eyes lit up and a smile spread across his face. He turned around toward his older sister and shouted, “awesome! We’re getting a sister for Christmas!”

Well, not exactly.

In an effort to create a sense of service among my children and teach the principle “it is better to give than to receive,” my husband and I decided to expand the Christmas budget just a bit and “adopt” a child for Christmas — or at least that’s what my son heard us say. What we meant simply was, as a family we would purchase Christmas gifts for a foster child we will never meet. Top on her wish list: a winter coat and socks.

I actually have ulterior motives. Though I really do want to serve and help a child in need, I also want to provide an opportunity for my children to understand the needs of others and realize that coats and socks and warm sweaters are actually a luxury.

Many families teach their children similar values each year. For those who would like to start traditions of service in their home during the holiday season, here are a few ideas:

1. Include your children in purchasing gifts for those in need.

It goes without saying, there is always a local need for service and help with holiday gifts. Many local organizations would love your involvement. Prevent Child Abuse Utah offers opportunities for Christmas for Kids (Sub for Santa) and even a Holiday Diaper Drive.

Candy Cane Corner, sponsored by The Road Home, is a holiday store empowering parents and providing them an opportunity to select gifts for their family. They stock the store with new, unwrapped donations from the community and always have needs for those who want to donate.

I will never forget the experience I had my sophomore year in high school when I was able to participate in buying a complete Christmas for a family through the Sub for Santa program. The joy, warmth and gratitude I had while delivering those gifts was incredible. That year, my heart was opened to the true meaning of Christmas.

2. Create a ‘Season of Service.’

If your own Christmas budget is tight, you can get creative with service. Focus on proactive activities to brighten someone’s day.

Dan and Rebecca Wattleworth in Burleson, Texas, take this approach with their family. “We do a service each day of December leading up to Christmas. We tape free codes to the Red Box machines, strategically place dollars at All-A-Dollar throughout the store, help take shopping carts from a store’s parking lot back into the store, set up a free hot chocolate stand, etc. Our kids love it and look forward to it every year,” Dan Wattleworth explains.

3. Help the homeless.

One winter day as a preteen, I remember my mom spontaneously purchasing a warm fleece blanket during a shopping trip. We drove to a park and nearly left the blanket on a bench. Afraid it would not get to someone who really needed it, my mother took us kids to the homeless shelter to hand-deliver the blanket.

She was a busy working mom, raising five kids. I’m sure at the time, for her that experience may have seemed like more work than it was worth, but I have never forgotten the impression making that donation made on me.

4. Drop surprises off on doorsteps.

It’s easy to leave a holiday ham, jar of loose change or box of toys on the doorstep of someone you know who is in need. Or take it up a notch and pick a family to “doorbell ditch” for The 12 Days of Christmas, leaving them a themed gift each night on the 12 days leading up to Christmas.

This time of year is meant to be a season of love and service, no matter how big or small. Creating service-focused memories with our family will be the memories that last. Bob Hope said, “When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things — not the great occasions — give off the greatest glow of happiness.”