It is nearly the 1st of December, time for advent calendars, planning family get togethers, delicious meals, Christmas carols, giving and receiving presents and a lot of ho ho ho cheer.
This of course is only one side of the coin. Many folk feel very isolated at Xmas time if their families are not nearby, if they do not get along or maybe even do not have families.
The weather has turned cold, and in my area there are increasing numbers of homeless people, sleeping rough, under bridges and street benches.
So think before you buy yet another present for your child or your family. Do they need so much, will they enjoy and appreciate the gifts? And then think about what you could perhaps give to a stranger, with no expectation of long term gratitude or recognition. Give because there is a need out there, give also because it feels good to be kind.
Particularly with children, reflect on what message you are giving them with tons of presents. There is an underlying communication that more or bigger is better. There is also the implication that nothing is too precious or needs looking after, that if something breaks or doesn’t work you can just replace it or not even bother because you have so much else to be playing with.
I think that it is never too early to show children that generosity and kindness are wonderful qualities. This is not simply done by example but it is a good idea to get them to practice this as well.
We are on the whole very keen to teach children to share but not so much to give. Sharing is great but it also, especially for young children, has to do with division and subtraction. It is basically letting go of something they want. It implies that they will have less. Giving on the other hand means that you have enough, that you are the person who is in a position to offer something to another.
My suggestion for an advent calendar for children this year is to create a list of what they can give daily until Christmas day. It could be a phone call to grandparents, helping load the dish washer, being kind to the lady at the till in the shop, greeting the bus driver, etc
You could make it a project with your child to devise ideas of kindness and generosity. It doesn’t have to be a major task. One option is to take a jar or a box, get your child to think of kind deeds for every day until Christmas and write them down on a little note and fill the jar. Take one out daily just as you would open an advent calendar window. An alternative, especially if your child is very young, is to write something daily and put it in the jar. By Christmas day you can see together how full the jar is and the child can feel proud of these acts of generosity.