Wondering when your kids will understand the concept of giving to others? We’ve learned it’s a process, but kids need some grace and they’ll get there eventually.
Several years ago I brought home an empty Operation Christmas Child shoe box for my family to fill. (Unfamiliar with Operation Christmas Child? Check out the link at the bottom of this post.) My kids were about 5 & 2.5 at the time, so I found an online video to help me explain why we were filling the shoe box with small toys and toiletries for another child that they did not know.
The video showed the life of a shoebox from when it was filled, to being sent to the distribution center, and then onto its final home–in the hands of a child in a third world country.
At the end of the video, my 5 year old said, “I wish I lived there. I want a box.”
Mommy drops head in shame.
“Oh sweetie, those kids might sleep on a dirt floor. They might go to bed hungry. This might be the only gift they receive at Christmas.”
To which my 5 year old responds, “Santa will bring them gifts.”
The Santa comment caught me off guard. Santa brings everyone gifts, right? Had my husband and I backed ourselves into a wall?
Later that season, Santa came up again when we went shopping for the family we “adopted” through the Salvation Army’s Adopt a Family program. Again, our daughter struggled with picking out gifts for a family that she has never met. “Why are we buying that girl a toy?” and “Santa will bring her a gift.”
Better prepared to respond to the Santa comment, I told her that some families are really struggling this Christmas and for whatever reason they are having a hard time. Santa needs our help and helping other people is what God would want us to do. (So take that Santa!)
I let that soak in for a while and we continued our shopping.
Giving is not easy for all children to understand immediately. My daughter has always had a good heart, but she really struggled back then with the idea that we were buying toys for other children whom we did not know.
But she has come a long way in these last 3 years and we couldn’t be more proud of her.
They’re Always Listening
Good Morning America is usually on the TV as we get ready in the morning. I have hesitated in the past to allow the kids to watch the news, but I’ve also found that some of the news opens up good conversations with my kids.
Back in June of this year, our kids had a lemonade stand during our neighborhood’s yard sale. Without my nudging, our daughter asked if she could send half of her earned money to the people in Oklahoma. She remembered watching the devastation on TV and she wanted to help the people who were affected by the storm that hit that state. I told her I would match her contribution and together we sent a $20 check to the Red Cross earmarked for Oklahoma.
This month, her Sunday school class is discussing the shoe box ministry and they watched a video about Operation Christmas Child. She came home from church and couldn’t wait to show me the video online. The same child who at one time wanted to live in a desert so she could get a shoe box filled with toys, asked me if she could use some of her own money to buy the toys for a shoe box.
This past Saturday night, we hit up Target and the Dollar Store and our girls picked out items for their boxes. They were both excited to fill the boxes this time, not upset or jealous.
My oldest daughter has come a long way from the little girl who wanted to move to the desert and fortunately, her younger sister is following her lead. While they are both very eager for their own Christmas gifts, they are also realizing that our world does not center around them–and that makes me one happy mama!
Does your family fill a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child? It’s not too late to participate. Check the website for Operation Christmas Child and Samaritan’s Purse for more information.
Jon Maroni says
Operation Christmas Child is one of the best ways that we can teach a younger generation about the importance of generosity, because they get to be so involved. It was my first encounter when I was a kid with the idea that it was my responsibility to use what I had to help others. I continue supporting the organization to this day, many, many years later.
Jon Maroni recently posted…How Can I be a Generous Consumer?
Kristia Ludwick says
Jon, I agree. OCC is a wonderful way for our children to realize that the world is greater than them and the fact that OCC hit 100 million boxes this year is no easy feat.