Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Teaching Love & Charity

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow. ~Edward Sandford Martin

During these weeks before Christmas adults and children are bombarded with advertising on television, radio, the internet and in print. It's everywhere and it can become overwhelming. How can we combat all the emphasis on spending money and materialism to bring a true sense of the holidays to our homes? I have a few simple ideas to help you teach love and charity during this special time of year.

A kindness jar: Have each family member write down four acts of kindness that can be done for someone during the month of December. Place all the papers in a jar. On each Sunday during the month have family members pick a slip out of the jar. They will need to complete their act privately, without bragging or asking for help. You'll want to make sure everyone has fairly simple ideas. On Christmas Eve have everyone bring their slips to one room and together discuss what they did, what they learned and how they feel about the experiences.

Help Baby Jesus: Take pieces of straw (or cut up raffia if you don't have straw) and place them in a container. Using a ceramic baby Jesus, or your own homemade version, and a "manger" set up a little "station" where you can place the manger and a bowl or container with the straw. Set aside the baby Jesus until Christmas Eve. The object of this activity is to place a piece of straw in the manger every time someone does or says something nice for someone during December. Parents should stress that the more the kids do that is helpful and kind, the more bedding the baby will have on Christmas Eve to make his bed soft and comfortable. On Christmas Eve gather together and place the baby in the manger and discuss if it was hard or easy to remember to do nice things. This is a neat way to make kids think about how often they are polite, nice or helpful.

Helping Others: Sit down as a family and plan what you can do for those around you in need. It may include helping an elderly person in your neighborhood, donating food, toys or clothing to a mission, sponsoring a family or child through the Salvation Army Angel Tree or other similar projects, or making holiday cards for the local nursing home. Doing a few of these things doesn't cost much and really does make a difference to a family or a person in need. It's important to involve that kids as much as possible. Ask them what they would like to do, have them sort through their own toys, and let them see you doing the same thing. Each year try to do different things.

It is always better to teach our children by example and by our actions. What better way to take the focus off material wealth and the superficial commercialism of the holidays then to give to others.


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