This year we're starting a new family tradition: a portion of your Christmas budget is going to giving. We had originally planned on having the kids research different charities they might want to donate to and then they'd pick one they most wanted to make a donation to. Since this is our first year placing a greater emphasis on giving (instead of just getting), we wanted to make it easy.
When we were at the mall last weekend, the kids saw a Christmas Angel Tree. The tree has tags hanging on them with age and gender of kids who might not be getting much for Christmas without help from others. My kids were drawn to other kids in need. They looked at nearly every tag the tree before they decided on two kids (both about Cooper's age) to help.
We hadn't planned on this being our vehicle for giving this year. I had big plans of picking a local organization I believed in and then as a family we'd deliver a check. My kids had other ideas. I'm learning that sometimes I make things too complicated or too hard to relate to. My kids don't completely understand what it might mean to give money to a organization. Of course, they know what money is and what donating means, but unless they have some connection to the recipient the meaning can be lost.
When they saw this tree, something tugged at their hearts. They know what it's like to be a kid. They know what it's like to want something so bad — that shiny new toy or a warm jacket — that it's all you can think of. And they can understand how much it must hurt to not get those things or have no hope of getting something under the Christmas tree.
They stripped giving and compassion down to it's basic level. I was hoping to make a grand gesture. They are hoping to help one little person. But isn't that where all giving should start? Start where you are. Start with what you know. Start with what you can do. All those tiny acts can add up to greatness. But unless you start and connection with your mission, then no one will ever be the recipient of your compassion.
Once again, my children are my teachers. This holiday season, I'm going to tuck away my grandiose ideas and try to stick with simple acts of kindness and compassion. Those acts are just as important as a big check or a grand gesture.