In a season saturated with commercialism and consumerism, it’s easy to lose the meaning of Christmas. Children make never-ending lists of toy requests, and parents are swamped with seasonal obligations, activities, party preparations, gift-buying, and more. We incorporate traditions like trips to tree farms, cookie baking, and evening drives to gaze at dazzling arrays of lights strung across awnings.
One way to add a layer of richness to the Christmas season is implementing a tradition that focuses on making a difference in the life of someone who is in need. This list of ideas offers practical ways to involve everyone in the family in making someone else’s holiday brighter, because, after all, isn’t this really what Christmas is about?
Color a smile for a soldier
Holiday seasons tend to be bleak for those who are away from loved ones. Show a member of our military just how grateful you are by downloading a coloring sheet from Colorasmile.org. It’s as simple as this: Pick a coloring sheet, print it on your home printer, color it, and mail it to the attached address. The colorings are collected and sent to troops around the world. This is a simple way to involve young children in extending kindness, and you don’t even have to leave home!
Fill a box for Operation Christmas Child
Many children across the globe don’t receive a single gift for Christmas. This is difficult to imagine in a culture of abundance. Operation Christmas Child is a hands-on opportunity to select gifts for a child, pack the gifts in a box, and send the box to a child whose life will be touched by your kindness. It’s surprisingly fun to fill a shoebox for a child in need, and it’s a great way to help our children shift their focus off of themselves and onto those who have far less.
Be an angel by donating to the Angel Tree
The Salvation Army runs a program called Angel Tree. Through this program, specific families enroll for donations of new clothing. Those who wish to contribute sign up by selecting a child by gender and clothing size, and they provide new clothing for the child in need. This is a wonderful hands-on way to extend kindness in the Christmas season.
Participate in a coat or clothing drive
Many communities organize winter coat drives throughout November and December. Simply save gently used coats, and when the coat drive begins, donate your used coat. Many children enter the winter season without a warm coat that fits. This is a powerful way to impact the life of a family. For more information on locating a coat drive near you or starting your own coat drive, visit One Warm Coat.
Donate to your local food bank
Many families in our communities struggle to put food on the table on a regular basis. Reach into the lives of those in need by donating to your local food bank. While it might feel like a lot of work to take your children shopping, let them select large amounts of food, and deliver it to the food bank, this hands-on lesson will make an impact in their lives and in the lives of others. For a list of food banks across the country, check out Feedingamerica.org.
Send a source of income to an impoverished family across the globe
While food baskets and clothing donations are helpful ways to reach out to those in our region of the world, one of the most powerful ways to impact the life of a family in an agricultural nation is by donating livestock. A milk cow, goat, or clutch of chickens can provide both food and sustainable income through producing milk or eggs for a family to eat and sell. Heifer International offers a wide variety of animals that can be purchased for families in need across the globe. This is also a great way to teach our children about the differences of various cultures.
To the overbooked parent at Christmastime, adding a new tradition to the list might feel like more work than bearable. Try replacing a past tradition with one of these outward-focused causes, and you might be surprised by the joy that comes when you teach your children the importance of keeping their eyes open for the needs around them. Your kindness is sure to make a lasting impact on those you serve, and you won’t soon forget it either.