Friday, December 22, 2006

The Spirit of Christmas

I think one of the most important things to teach our children is the act of charity. It balances the ever increasing consumerism being taught by the 24 hour eMedia. Seeing as most children don’t have their own checkbooks, it’s more important for them to use their time and talents to help others. A good lesson for the rest of us as well.

Recently, my – almost 12 year old -- daughter, a member of the traveling soccer team, was required to get up early one Saturday morning and do community service. The local league had made it mandatory for all players, as a team, to participate in some sort of charitable work. What a great rule! While this is not a requirement for professional sports, most big league players also donate their time and money to those less fortunate, though not ALL of them. My little girl grumbled at the thought of an early rise on a weekend, but she got up and met her team and off they went. She’s a better person for it, although, she probably doesn’t see that yet.

That reminded me of another experience I had a few years ago when I taught 2nd grade Sunday school. One of my students, a girl, was having a birthday party. Unprompted, she asked her mother if it was okay if her guests brought non-perishable food items instead of gifts. Why? So that once everyone was gathered at her house the parents would take the children down to the local food pantry and fill the shelves. Wow! Now that’s a charitable 7 ½ year old. Yes, her parents are extremely proud. They’re definitely doing something right. She also happened to be one of my best students and probably knew more scripture than I did.

When my wife taught a class, she had two classroom aides, 11 year old best friends, who had decided, again unprompted, that for their school’s citizen project they would collect books, videos, and tapes, to send to our soldiers in Iraq. That project grew to be a huge event, collecting hundreds and hundreds of items. The postage was paid for by adult donations. Those girls definitely made a contribution to the war effort. It all started with a small idea, supportive parents, and the willingness to put others first.

My, almost 4 year old, Helper, has been playing with a stuffed Santa that resides under our tree. When you squeeze Santa he says, “Remember, the spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.” He’s been taking this toy everywhere and has memorized the recording. Now I just have to explain – in 4 year old terms – what it means. Wish me luck! Children learn by example; as adults, what example are we setting? Again, as always, thanks for reading.

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