Do you ever feel that the holiday season loses its sense of giving and love? Is it as hard for you to keep a loving spirit as it is for me? Rather like the cartoon below, do you feel you're being held hostage to the holidays?
My mother taught me an important message about the holiday season. Mom was a happy, optimistic woman who had the fortune or misfortune, depending on how you look at it, to marry a man who also was outgoing, gregarious, and very alpha.
All the years of my growing up, my mother took a back seat to my father. It wasn’t until he passed away that she blossomed. Now, don’t get me wrong. They were married fifty years and remained in love to the day Dad died.
But she didn’t become fully realized as a woman until she was on her own. I saw her, at the ripe age of seventy, become the president of her church’s women’s organization. Lest you think this is a small job, let me explain. She organized every single church dinner of the year; she visited the sick and poor, taking in meals, clothing, and whatever else she managed to scrounge up from the church members. She supervised dinners for family members every time someone died. She coordinated with her pastor to order food supplies and necessities for the indigent in their congregation.
Added to that, she and her friend Ethylene, planted a garden every year that would rival any co-op’s. They had corn, tomatoes, all sorts of beans, lettuce, onions, carrots. They tilled the soil, planted, pulled weeds and harvested their crop every year, hundreds of Mason jars of veggies and hundreds of bags of frozen ones.
And then they gave it all away!
Amazing, isn’t it? What generosity of spirit, and what a good example to me! I wanted to pass on those same values to my children.
When my kids were small, I'd try every year to think of a new way they could learn to give instead of receive. And it wasn't easy! See the oldest five to the right. Do they look like they're in much of a giving mood?
One of the greatest lessons came from someone else and was a gift to us -- from The Cake Bandits. This unknown couple in our church delivered the most fabulously decorated cakes to various families in the congregation throughout the year. Every Sunday my children waited to see who'd get the next cake from The Cake Bandits.
Finally our turn came. See the picture of the railroad station cake at the left? It was delivered anonymously to our doorstep one morning right before Christmas. The note said, "Merry Christmas from The Cake Bandits." We never learned who these generous people were.
One Christmas our family chose an emotionally needy student, you know, the lonely kind who doesn't seem to have many friends. We bought several gifts and played "doorbell ditch." Except when we rang the doorbell and ran away, we left these beautifully wrapped gifts for the student. Of course, no one ever knew who'd left them, and my children speculated for weeks about how excited that student must've been to know he had a secret friend.
Another year each child chose a gift from among his or her wrapped presents under the tree and gave it away to a needy child in our neighborhood.
This one was hard because my children always considered themselves the needy children since we were a one-income family at the time and Daddy was a school teacher.
What about you?
Do you find it particularly challenging to help keep the spirit of giving within yourself during the season?
What special traditions do you or your family keep to make special memories?
Don't forget -- One commenter will receive the Bandita prize today as part of our Twelve Bandita Days of Christmas, so be sure to leave a comment!