When I was a little girl, every year my parents would take me Christmas shopping in early December. I was allowed to pick out one present. It could be just about anything I wanted, but being a little girl, I usually picked out a toy. There was the year I picked the McDonald’s play food set (because how can you really play house if you don’t have fast food as an option to serve your guest?), and the year I went with a Play-Doh set with every color you could want. There were other years too, but I remember those, because those were both things I really wanted.
And when we got home, we wrapped the present in white tissue paper and took it to church, where it would be given to another child. I’m sure there were times when I secretly would have liked to keep the present for myself, but I don’t really remember that. I mostly remember knowing that I never had any doubt I would wake on Christmas morning to find a pile of presents waiting for me. It’s only one of the most thrilling moments of the year when you’re five or six. And I knew the present we lovingly selected would go to help another child have that same excitement on Christmas morning. That was better than getting the play food or Play-Doh.
I was fortunate to grow up never really wanting for anything. And as an adult, I consider myself even luckier to have come from a family that understood the importance of sharing that blessing with others. More importantly, my parents taught me that it was the right thing to do. We weren’t doing it for some reward or to pat ourselves on the back, it’s just what we did.
This is still one of my favorite traditions every holiday season. It’s fun to go shopping–especially when you have a prompt like “baby girl likes princesses” or “little boy likes dinosaurs” and you get to relive that excitement of picking out toys or little outfits. And it’s even better knowing that fun is going to give joy to someone else.
There are lots of ways you can do this. Here in the U.S. Toys for Tots is one of the most famous, and typically has local donation centers. Stores like Target often have angel trees where you can pick a name and find a wish list for a specific child. I typically visit the giving tree at a local bookstore, which works with local charitable organizations to provide the presents.
If it isn’t in your budget to buy presents, you can also donate gently used items to children in your community. No matter how big or small a gift might seem, it can mean everything to a child when he or she opens it at Christmas.
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