We are now in full swing of advent activities – I’ve finally got them all up and going. We are counting down until Jesus’s birthday! Pen Elaine doesn’t have much sense of time and days passing, so I don’t know if she’s grasped the idea of counting down yet, but we are getting there.
This year, I got new inspiration from my fabulous friend Kim, and her list of advent activities, and one of my favorites has been to have kids (and adults!) clean out toys, books, clothes, etc. to give to children who are less fortunate. (This also cleans out toy boxes to make room for the inevitable new toys from grandparents!) She also has her kids open a “present” each day, just to have the joy of unwrapping a surprise. So, on the day we give to others, I had wrapped up the three wise men from our plastic Nativity scene; this way, we talked about the wise men wanting to bring presents to little Jesus, which led to talking about giving presents to Jesus for His birthday celebration. To follow, we used an old gift bag (a big one!) to start gathering toys and books from Pen Elaine’s stash. When Pen Elaine (2.5 years) and I talked about what we were doing, we talked about how we can give presents to Jesus for His birthday by giving to other people.
Matthew 25:37-40 (NASB) says:
Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.
At first, she was so gung-ho, not realizing she would never see these items again, that she wanted to give away a beloved animal that she sometimes sleeps with…I tried to protect my own future sanity in those cases. I helped her along by choosing items and asking if she wanted to “keep it” or “give it as a present.” The next day, we got around to delivering our “presents,” and Pen Elaine could see and experience the giving to others.
Since we, as parents, want to model what we teach and the values we hope our children learn, we want Pen Elaine seeing how we give out of the abundant surplus with which we live and have been given. The other giving tradition that we (almost) completed on this day was to give a gift through Compassion International. This year we included our toddler in the process in that she can help look through their catalog, which is both in print and online, to choose a gift for donation. My honey loves this tradition because he thinks it’s so fun to be able to give a chicken or a goat or something, but they also had donations for playground equipment, safe water, help for mothers and babies, which are all things that all three of us can wrap our heads around in a tangible way. As an aside, I’ve heard of other organizations that encourage holiday donations by sending you a stuffed animal of a goat or whatever that you are giving to people in a less rich part of the world, so it seems like a cool idea to go buy something inexpensive to commemorate and remind kids of how they can give to others.