Last week I offered the following Christmas present choice to my 4-year-old twins:
“Mommy and Daddy are planning to get you five presents for Christmas. But we want to give you a choice. You can choose to receive all five presents or you can choose to receive one less and we’ll let you pick a gift to give to someone in need.”
If they made the choice to give up a present so someone else could receive one, I planned to use the money that would have been spent on their gift for something they would pick from the World Vision Gift Catalog (e.g., 2 chickens for a family in need).
I held my breath waiting to see what they would do.
Kenna spoke up first: “Mommy, I want to only receive four presents and give the other one to someone who doesn’t have as much.”
My heart leapt for joy, and I gave her a big hug to tell her how proud I was that she would choose generosity as Jesus would want.
Then Nathan responded. “I want five presents.”
Total meaningful moment buzz kill.
I talked to him about it for a while, to better help him understand why it would make a big difference to another child if he wanted to give up a present so they could have one. With a little hesitation, he later chose to give up a present as well (albeit with less conviction!).
Here are the key elements of what we’re doing with this choice to ensure it will be a meaningful part of the kids’ Christmas:
1. We’re making a big deal out of it. I’ve been talking about the gift they get to pick for someone in need on a regular basis so it stands out to them as something important and not just “one more thing” going on this Christmas.
2. We keep reminding them they are getting four presents instead of five because of the generous choice they made. I believe it is far more impactful for them to experience 1) making the decision themselves and 2) needing to give something up to make it happen. Ultimately, we want them to learn that true generosity is not a matter of giving from surplus (Mark 12:44).
3. We’re wrapping an empty box for them to open on Christmas with their other four presents. The empty package is symbolic of the gift they would have had, but chose to give up so another child could be happy this Christmas. When they open it, we hope they’ll be reminded that they chose less so others could have more. It’s a more tangible experience than explanations alone. That said, we do realize we are dealing with 4-year-olds, so we’ll be sure to let them know before they open that gift that it won’t have anything in it (but that they will get to pick what gift they want to give after they open it…read on).
4. After they unwrap the box, we’re giving them a page I created with pictures of five gift options from the World Vision Gift Catalog. If you visit the World Vision site, the catalog is featured on the front and you can choose an appropriate price range. From the $25 and under page, I’m letting them each pick from the following choices: 2 soccer balls, seeds for a family to plant, 3 ducks, a Bible or a birthday celebration for a child in need.
It’s a simple idea that we hope will begin to teach the meaning of generosity.
What is your family doing this year to make Christmas more meaningful? Please share your ideas!