Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I always like the Angel Tree project.  I remember being a small child, giving mittens, and imagining how sad it would be to be a child with no mittens.

So I walked by the Angel Tree yesterday.  I saw a request from a girl my daughter’s age:

DSI games

DSI games?!  This is what the needy children in our community NEED?

I am glad my daughter was not with me.  She would have had to hear me rant and grumble and change my mind about doing the Angel Tree. 

When actual needs, food and shelter and clothes, are met in abundance, what else is there to do but to turn “wants” into “needs?”  I am not just talking about the “career welfare” folk. 

We do it, too.  My kids do it. I do it.  I “need” naptime and coffee and internet.

These children of mine, who are technically poor themselves according to government standards, have not wanted for a single thing in their little lives.

How can I help grow their little hearts for those not so blessed? 
How do you teach children to be generous?  

I am really asking.  Will you think with me on this during advent please? 

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  1. We collected three shoe box-sized boxes from school for the "Operation Christmas Child" project. The boxes are sent to other countries, where they are often the first gifts the children have ever received. This mama cried her way through a very long shopping trip, trying to cram as much love, as many necessities, and little joys into those tiny boxes as she could, knowing that these kids have nothing, and remembering just how very sad she felt as a kid who had very little. The kids added drawings, letters, and "Jesus loves yous," and I tried to explain to my littles why Santa needs some help reaching these kids. It's a struggle every year to teach why we celebrate Christmas without destroying the fun of Santa.

  2. Emily, I recently had a nearly identical experience. Every year our church does a huge push for "Project Christmas Hope," which is where we adopt 30-some (this year 40) needy families and seniors from the community referred to us by Salvation Army and other social services, and the wishlists for all the families are put out in the narthex for people to sign up to get them the items they would like. Appropriate things like groceries and coats are always included, but I have definitely been troubled by other things on the lists. Last year, one dad asked for a DVD which was either The Da Vinci Code or its sequel, which is clearly un-Christian, and yet the project coordinator left it on the list for someone to sign up for! And the things the kids ask for! This year there were multiple requests for MP3 PLAYERS! It made me quite upset. MY kids won't even be getting MP3 players when they are old enough because that is an extravagant gift (IMO). They will have to earn and save money for anything that expensive. And yet these were poor people asking for these things?? I certainly hope no one from church gets them those things. I do want to help out the poor with things like groceries and mittens but if you are asking for MP3 players and Da Vinci Code DVD's, then you do not need our help. Also, this year, only ONE of the (30-some) families we adopted was a two-parent family. If you want my opinion, we as a church could be doing society a MUCH better service putting our energies into promoting marriage, sexual fidelity, commitment, and fatherhood, rather than giving families Da Vinci Code DVD's and MP3's players!

    To piggyback on what Luke and Tammy said, I LOVE Operation Christmas Child! I am a year-round volunteer for it here in my area. I remember, Emily, that you did it at least once back in Hillsdale so you know what it's about. Kids adore the project, and although I know not *every* one of the millions of kids who get the boxes every year (8.2 million last year!) are dirt poor, plenty are. Some of them live on the streets or at garbage dumps, have lost everything they own to a natural disaster, are caught in the fallout from drug cartel wars, etc. etc. The boxes go to places where kids desperately need to hear the gospel. Even places like Afghanistan. If you want a project to do with your kids that will inspire them and tug at your heartstrings again, do OCC! :o)

  3. One thing I always remember doing with my parents was giving blankets and cookies. In person. The blankets went to people at an old folks' home. My mom always asked which of the people had the fewest visitors, and we went in and I'm sure amused/annoyed them for a few minutes with my chirpy kid talk about nonsense. The cookies went into paper lunch bags and went to homeless people. In person. One by one. I think making that personal connection at the holidays is what teaches generosity and caring. And it doesn't have to be an item. My kid choir sang for an old folks' home and they loved it.

  4. Tammy and Ann- we just did operation christmas child here, and I like that one too. What really amazed me this year was this: one of the school children had a birthday last month, and instead of presents, she asked people to bring items for shoeboxes! SO COOL! I love seeing that kind of heart in a fourth grader!

    And Erin, wow, what memorable traditions. I agree completely that the personal connection is awesome. I can just see the chirpy kid talk brightening someone's day! Thing is, down here they sometimes close the nursing homes during flu season to all visitors. That is SO SAD!

    I love these ideas guys! Keep them coming!!!

  5. Emily,

    I just read a post from Small Notebook (a blog chock full of wonderful and PRACTICAL ideas about living simply) about keeping the tree focused on the true meaning of Christmas. Though not directly about teaching generosity, it might be interesting to you!

    Here's the post!



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