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Enlisting Your Kids in the Service of the Season
Report to Moderator Old 06-02-2002 09:27 PM
MMC Editor
 
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By Kimberly Ripley

Relax, all ye Christmas warriors!

I'm certainly not advocating that everyone rush down to the local Army Recruiting Office and fill out paper work. However there are a number of ways to be of service this season, and our children can play an integral role in the process.

Volunteers of all ages are needed throughout the year, and most especially at Christmas time. Those who suffer from financial difficulties find Christmas to be increasingly trying, as their budgets barely cover the costs of food and shelter. And it is even harder still for those without homes, in nursing homes, foster homes, and hospitals.

"What can we possibly do?" you may ask. And I'm so very glad you did. As a matter of fact, the following paragraphs even include ways to sign yourself up -- but not until you're finished reading this article and perusing MyMerryChristmas.com!

Volunteering must come from the heart. The most dedicated volunteers are those full of gratitude. Like me, they undoubtedly remember a time in their life that was bleak. Perhaps they, like me, were the recipients of the wonderful and charitable efforts of volunteers. This is a way to repay those kindnesses. And isn't that an enormous part of the joy of Christmas?

I have taught my children to volunteer from the time they could navigate the rooms in our home. From serving at the soup kitchen to adopting needy families and elderly folks for holidays, volunteering has been a prominent part of growing up for the children in our house. They have been repeatedly reminded to count their blessings, and that it is their duty as Christians to bestow some of those blessings upon others.

An interesting scenario took place in our kitchen just the other day. My six-year old and I were bagging canned and boxed good for the school Thanksgiving food drive. As I reached for a box of my son's favorite brownie mix, he exclaimed, "Oh don't give that away. I really like that!"

"Don't you suppose another little boy who doesn't often get any treats might like it, too?" I asked him.

Jonathan tentatively shook his head. And then I tried my best to explain to him how Jesus taught us to give.

"Do you remember learning the story about Jesus and the fishes and loaves of bread?" I asked.

He nodded.

"Don't you suppose Jesus was really hungry?"

Another nod.

"Do you think he might have been so hungry he could have eaten all that food by himself?"

Nod.

"But what did he do instead?"

"He shared it."

"And how did that small amount of food feed so many people?"

"God made sure there was enough to go around."

I then proceeded to explain that when we give it should be of a free will and with joy in our hearts. I said we shouldn't ever give away that which we don't like or need. And I told Jonathan to imagine how happy a boy his age would be if his mom made him those delicious chocolate brownies as a treat.

He didn't speak another word, but silently put the brownie mix into the bag. He then returned to the cupboard and chose a cake mix (his favorite kind) and a can of ready-to-spread frosting (also his favorite). I think the lesson hit home.

Teaching this concept of giving to others is especially difficult if finances are tight within your own household. My children's elementary school is currently conducting a service project of providing goods for a needy village school in Guatemala. Having connections with a Peace Corp worker in that region, I established a volunteer project for these kids in which every child could potentially participate.

This village in Alta Verapez is so poor that many of the children are seen running naked through the streets. Their school can barely provide minimal school supplies. And recreational equipment like basketballs, soccer balls, or Frisbees are non-existent.

I showed a picture of some of the school children in the village to the kids at our elementary school. I explained that the gift of used clothing would be most welcome. Even a package of markers or crayons that had been gently used would be a treat to these children. And small gifts of shoelaces, a bandanna, and a pair of socks would be useful, too.

Instantly hands sprung up from around the room, as the children were eager to tell of things they'd like to share. And the children who don't generally get to participate in these projects were enthusiastic as well.

"My baby brother has gotten too big for his undershirts, and my mom was going to throw them out," one little girl said proudly. "Can I bring them in?"

"That would be a wonderful idea," I exclaimed.

The ideas poured forth like a broken dam. And it became apparent to me that children blossom and bloom when allowed to give to others. In many ways this project will benefit our own school children as much as it will the children in Guatemala.

Family Service agencies in your own town are desperately in need of volunteers this time of year. Give them a call and offer to sort donated clothing, pack and deliver boxes of food, or help compile lists of those requiring services throughout the winter. Your kids can put apples and oranges into holiday food baskets, and mittens and warm socks into the boxes of clothing. Shop ahead of time for these items with your children, so they experience the feeling of giving.

The Salvation Army has had to advertise in our community to find bell ringers. Imagine, a tried and true tradition of raising money to provide Christmas dinners and presents to the poor has to run an ad in a local paper to find volunteers! Volunteer to ring the bell, and bring your child along to help. The Salvation Army also has reams of lists of families in need of assistance. Adopting a family for Christmas is a wonderful family project.

We've adopted a family for as many years back as I can recall. Once my children reached the age where they earned some money, I made them responsible for purchasing one gift for a member of the family. We brainstorm ideas at home, and then go out shopping as a family. I urge the children to purchase something they would enjoy receiving, and once again apply the principal that we don't give things we wouldn't wish to have ourselves. And I try to impress upon them the feeling of joy these recipients will experience, and how that is performing the Lord's work.

On Christmas afternoon, when the presents are torn open and the house is ridiculously full of gadgets, gizmos, and games, urge your family to volunteer for a couple of hours at a facility providing a holiday meal for the homeless. Disappointment over what they didn't receive should dissipate immediately when sharing firsthand in a Christmas among the homeless. At the same time joy is spread to those who need it most.

Another Christmas afternoon visit that would be welcome by many, is a trip to a local nursing home. There are so many elderly folks without any family to drop by on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The gift of your time, a small wrapped present, and perhaps a few carols sung by the children will bring joy to some of our forgotten souls.

The list is endless. There are dozens and dozens of ways to start a tradition of giving to those needing and deserving these Christmas blessings. It requires minimal time. It doesn't even have to cost any money. And the gift it gives will be reciprocal-perhaps even the best one you receive this Christmas season!
__________________
This article is copyrighted. Use of this article in part or whole is strictly prohibited. For reprint, quotation, or excerpt use please contact Merry Network LLC.



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