by Stephanie Partridge
As a single mom raising three kids on her own, our Christmases were sometimes a little scant. But while we did not have much by way of money or material goods, we had loads of love. We still do. We, the kids and I, have always felt rich, fortunate. My daughter always says, “We don’t have much, but we have everything.” And it is that philosophy that led us to a very special project a few years ago that became a Christmas tradition for our family.
One year, several years ago, we learned of a family who would not have much for Christmas. Both parents had been laid off and they were struggling just to put food on the table. They had two young children and it bothered my kids that these little ones would not have any Christmas presents.
Now, you have to realize here that I have three of the most tender hearts in the world residing within my children. They became aware of the situation and they began worrying about the family. They worried about how the parents felt because they couldn’t give their children a Christmas. They worried about the children because they wouldn’t understand why Santa did not visit them.
So they put their heads together and came up with a solution. They wanted to “adopt” the family.
We planned it all out and shopped together. We got presents for the kids and for the parents. We got some practical things and some fun things. It wasn’t much cause we didn’t have much to spend, but it was very nice. We even got some Christmas cookies and other special things.
The four of us wrapped all the gifts and put them into two large bags. Then we took them over to where the father had a part time job. All you could see in the bags were wrapped gifts, and we left the bags with the receptionist. My oldest son told her, “You didn’t see us.” She smiled. The family never knew who gave them the gifts, but word got back to us that they were very happy and grateful.
Thus began a tradition.
Giving to others in need is one of the most valuable lessons that we can teach our children. Adopting a family for Christmas is fun, rewarding and is a wonderful bonding experience for your family. It doesn’t cost much, in our family, each child “gives up” one present (we use the money for the adopted family instead) and we shop together. These tips will help you and your family adopt a family for Christmas.
Find a Family
Finding a family isn’t as difficult as you might imagine. Your church can help you and even local schools can direct you to a family in need. You don’t need specific, personal information, just the ages and genders of the children, clothing sizes and maybe special likes of dislikes of the children such as favorite colors. You don’t need to know anyone’s name. The church or school can also give the gifts to the family for you so that you can stay anonymous.
Have each child “sacrifice” one gift and apply that money to the family. This teaches children the joy of giving and they learn that true giving occurs when you sacrifice something, be it your time, money or something you want. Because they can take the money and shop for the family, they get to see the entire cycle of giving.
Shop for the Family
Go shopping as a family and agree together on what you get for each person. It doesn’t have to be big or extravagant, do what you can afford. We often shop at the dollar store and get crayons, coloring books, drawing pads, little toys, a piggy bank (complete with pennies), playing cards, small games, toys and other items without paying a whole lot. This allows us to do more for the family because we are saving money.
This is the part that my kids like the most. They love the joy and excitement of picking out something special for each person. They love shopping and deciding just the right thing to get.
Take care, though, and shop appropriately. For instance, don’t buy DVDs for the kids if you don’t know for a FACT that the family has a DVD player. Also be careful about what you buy for the children. Some parents don’t allow their children to play with toy guns so it is best to err on the side of caution and choose something else instead.
A good gift for the parents is a gift card to Wal-Mart or Target of some store that is near them.
Wrap Each Present
Wrap the presents individually and put the person’s name on it or somehow indicate who the present is for. This is also fun for us. We decorate each present with bows, pictures, candy canes, toys and small Christmas ornaments. If you don’t have wrapping paper, an economical alternative are the Sunday comics. They are usually very brightly colored and fun to read. I had an aunt when I was growing up who always wrapped all of her gifts in the Sunday comics. We joked about it, but now, years later, Aunt Betty’s quirky gift wrapping is a very pleasant Christmas memory that makes me smile.
Put the wrapped gifts in shopping bags or a box and deliver them. Determine beforehand how you will get the gifts to the recipient. If you are going through a school, you can have the secretary or guidance counselor deliver the gifts. Try to find someone who can make the delivery for you so that you can remain anonymous. The object is to be a “Secret Santa” to someone. That is one of the things that makes this so much fun. If you have to deliver it yourself, try to do it without getting caught!
This is something that your family will look forward to every Christmas. My kids start talking about it sometime during the summer and by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, they are ready to shop. They get so excited and I know that this is a tradition that they will carry with them to their own families when they are grown.
What better gift can we give our children than the gift of compassion, helping, love and sacrifice?
Stephanie Partridge is a freelance writer and photographer as well as a FOIA analyst for a federal agency in Washington, D.C. She is a single mom to Jeffery, 19; Micah Elizabeth, 17 and Benjamin, 15. She is also the author of the ebook, “Diet is a Dirty Word.”
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