Give Your Child the World This Holiday Season.
It is – we are repeatedly told – the season of giving. But what is it, really, we are giving?
Sometimes we are trapped in the quid pro quo gift exchange of social nicety; the weighty fruitcake to the neighbor, cute napkin rings to your child’s teacher, a bottle of brandy to a business client. But for those closest to us we long to give something more valuable than anything that could be contained in a box, hidden by colorful paper or bound up in a ribbon and sparkling bow.
If such a wonderful gift could also benefit, comfort or enlighten others so much the better. Such mindful giving extends the circle of our generosity rippling outward into the world in ways large and small, seen and unseen.
Each Christmas, when my son, Seth, was growing up I would always look to include at least one special gift or event that would encompass something beyond our home or way beyond our experience of the normal. One Christmas Eve I took him to see the blazing pinon bonfires in the Taos Pueblo plaza, in New Mexico. We jumped at the sound of hunting rifles blasting away into the bottomless darkness of the winter night sky as men, swaddled in woolen blankets, carried the beautifully clad “Bride of Heaven” santo of the Virgin Mary from the nearby chapel around the plaza in a ceremonial blend mixing 400 years of Catholicism, Native American worship, and, possibly, Jewish wedding ceremony.
Gifts might include a special book. One year it was beautifully turned and balanced tonfa – a ceremonial weapon used in Seth’s karate training. On one of his last Christmases before leaving home I made a small wooden case for a set of carving tools he took with him overseas.
In a world that grows both closer and more complex at the same time, holiday gifting provides an opportunity to give children something beyond their experience or the world of their known universe. We can provide a colorful spectrum of gifts that both gives to others while knitting our children more closely into the human experience.
Here are a few suggestions to get you thinking:
- For young children a bird feeder with accompanying seed and suet or perhaps homemade pinecone and peanut butter “ornaments” for the backyard trees bring nature closer and give a child the experience of caring for wildlife. Joining a parent to nail together and paint up simple bird feeders or bird houses as gifts for others blends many wonderful elements for a child. Check the internet for simple plans.
- Dedicate a small portion of the household holiday budget for buying supplies for a local animal rescue program. Call up the program and find out what is on their wish list. Get the kids involved in purchasing and delivering the items so they can see how their generosity and attention can make a difference.
- Explore the possibilities of some of the charitable programs available to provide for children and families in third world countries. One of the most well-established programs is Save the Children, with on-the-ground support programs in 120 countries, including some where war and genocide has taken a tragic toll. Take a portion of the holiday budget and spend some time online with the kids to find a place to donate to: www.savethechildren.org
- One of my favorites is Heifer International. They provide donated livestock ranging from ducks and rabbits to goats, pigs, water buffalo, llamas, cows and other livestock to families around the globe. If you can’t afford $250 for a water buffalo, you can sponsor a share. A flock of chicks go for $20 and honeybees are only $30. The addition of such livestock can make all difference to an impoverished rural family. Eggs, milk and cheese can supplement household income and provide the critical nutritional edge growing children need to prosper. There is a heavy emphasis in Heifer programming on teaching communities about sustainable farm and livestock practices. Check them out with the kids at: www.heifer.org/catalog
With a little imagination and a small amount of effort we can give our children the world this holiday season. And why not, after all it is theirs to inherit.
Mark L. Taylor MA LPC SAC is a Wisconsin licensed counselor who works extensively with adolescents and their families. He also founded the RoundRiver Institute LLC, a learning center near Genoa, WI. Permission is granted for personal use of this material. If you pass it on to other individuals please include a link back to this page. If you wish to use it in a newsletter or publication please contact Mark at: http://www.round-river2000.com
© Mark L. Taylor and RoundRiver Institute LLC