The One Thing You Must Do BEFORE Next Christmas
As I walked the length of my driveway to my mailbox on a crisp, sunny, late autumn day, I was soaking in the beauty of the sun, while my feet crunched the fallen leaves below. I was excited to go to the mailbox. Not that I was expecting anything in particular. I just find myself thrilled to open that little black door each day. I guess I believe some hidden treasure is going to find me in the midst of the Papa John’s coupons.
As I opened the mailbox door, I was shocked to see only one piece of mail. What I saw was large and in book form. A magazine of some sort? No. It was something much, much worse.
IT had arrived. Without any notice or regard for the commotion it was certain to cause, the Toys-R-Us Christmas catalog was sitting on the outskirts of my home. I could throw it away and act as if it had never arrived, but that would be too easy. Plus, I knew that those pesky Toys-R-Us elves were watching, so I decided to face this head-on.
I marched into my house and greeted my kids. Then, in very dramatic fashion, I held aloft the catalog like He-Man’s Power Sword and said (in my fantastic British voice), “It has arrived!”
My children’s mouths agape, I slowly lowered the catalog with the care of a father cradling his newborn baby and handed it to them. I then gave some parental instruction which, to me, seemed sensible but in reality turned into a major problem. I asked my kids to circle a few things that they would like Santa to bring them.
They frantically went to work, taking turns circling things as they moved from page to page. When they were finished I noticed that this formerly pristine catalog had been returned to me battered and bruised. I opened it up to find that practically every item had been circled.
When questioned about this dramatic turn of events, I was told, in no uncertain terms, that they, in fact, wanted everything.
Needless to say, I was somewhat taken aback regarding how much stuff my kids wanted. I thought we’d been through this last year. We spoke about the “Reason for the Season” and all that. We explained how it is more blessed to give than to receive. None of this seemed to be remembered. That’s because it wasn’t.
And that’s when it hit me. I had explained all of this stuff…once…last year. I, as their parent, obviously had not done a good enough job throughout the rest of the year reinforcing this lesson.
Now, I think I’ve done a decent job of incorporating giving into my own life. My wife surely lives a “giving” lifestyle. But maybe we haven’t been intentional about showing our kids the “beauty of giving” on a more consistent basis.
We all want to steer our kids towards who they can be — to be the best them possible. To do this, we must always begin with the end in mind, and then we must begin to do things now that will eventually lead us to that end. For example, we want them to eventually see the blessings and benefits of giving, but they will need us to show them the way — beyond the occasional, “Let’s buy a birthday present for your friend” conversation.
So, with the prompting from Toys-R-Us, we started a new dialogue in our household as we eat, play, and drive from place to place. The conversation shifted from “What do I want for Christmas?” to “What can I give for Christmas?” And, as we drift beyond the holiday season, our goal is to focus on one person whom we can bless each month.
Kids, naturally, are going to be a little self-centered. But we’re not raising kids; we’re raising adults. Our desire, as parents, isn’t to raise self-centered adults, but adults who are centered enough to help someone else.
Doing that is going to require more than a once-a-year conversation. The art of giving must be displayed throughout every season.