As a child I did not always realize the joy was in the giving and receiving, not just the gift. But I do think I have enjoyed the action of giving for quite some time. It always made me feel good when a friend liked the gift I gave them for their birthday or when I could help someone smile with a small item they liked to use. I was the coordinator of Secret Santa, Cupids, and Fluffer Butts with a group of friends my senior year in high school. And while some of my friends were busy trying to figure out who had their name I found myself listening to my person to see what they would enjoy to find in their locker most.
That is the part of giving I truly enjoy the most. Asking questions and listening to conversations to make note of what might help them smile as they tear off the wrapping paper. I love to personalize gifts and make them mean something. That is where the joy is for me - knowing I got it right for that
I also love the journey of finding that special gift, using my searching skills to find out where I can find the best deal or item for each person, and even customizing and creating items that are one of a kind from inside my mind. My husband would tell you Pinterest is my biggest time waster, but I love seeing ideas people have put together and making it my own. I borrow from the best and turn it into what I can do, so my items never turn out exactly like they are online, but my own version of what I see. My favorite gift from last year was the canvas collages I made with pictures of letters on signs from places that were important to those people to spell out their names. I had more fun finding the places to take the pictures of the letters then anything else. And this idea came to me as I saw a photo collage of doors important in my hometown. It was especially fun to hear them talk about where the letters were from as they guessed or matched it up with the laminated card I put inside that gave the information.
Each year I am trying to pass this on to my girls and show them we can work together to make presents or put together a few small items with a theme for their teachers, friends, and cousins that are even more special then something expensive from the store.
I am even playing around with an idea in my head to start a new tradition this year to help pass our waiting time Christmas morning that involves making something for our siblings or finding a way to give back to our community.
I have always tried to work with my girls to give back at the holiday time when we clean out our toy box and toys to donate to others who might not have all the nice things we have. We discuss how we are fortunate to have our family and nice things to share with each other, but that doesn't happen for everyone for a lot of different reasons so we can help make that happen for someone with something we loved to play with for awhile, but is ready for a new happy home. I need to work on this all year as a way to keep the kindness going.
The girls have also really enjoyed shopping the last two years to put a present in the box for a toy drive started in our local school to remember a special little girl taken too soon in a car accident. They look forward to picking something out and telling me how it will be played with. They also like to see the pictures of the girls little sister with all the toys before the family donates them. I like to hear them chatter about 'wow, look at all those toys kids will now have to play with' and 'isn't she lucky to give all those toys away.' And to read the posts about how this toy drive is helping the family remember their daughter and her giving spirit makes my heart melt even more.
I have been reading many stories of Random Acts of a Kindness and Paying it Forward as part of stories on Random Act of Kindness web page and the 26 Acts of Kindness Facebook page that started after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. It is heartwarming to hear the good in our country as sometimes we tend to focus on the bad. Another friend also posted his girls with the toys they bought with money they saved in their piggy banks to buy toys to put in the Toys for Tots bin at Toys R Us. What an an amazing tradition to start with their family!
When I was a middle school librarian my announcement team worked ever year to spread the word on live morning announcements via the TV to gather items to share at the holiday time. We did movies for soldiers overseas, books for the book mobiles in Africa, canned goods to forgive library fines, and sold candy-grams to raise money to donate. We also did a penny war each April to celebrate reading month and donated the money to places like Camp Courageous, the Heifer Project and local students after car accidents involving them or their parents. The kids looked forward to it each year and really got into the idea of giving back. And the ladies at the bank we extra kind when they saw me coming with my buckets of change to run through their machine.
The 'tail' end - I hope the 'spirit' of the season finds you merry and bright during this holiday time. What do you do to give back or pay it forward during the holidays or any time of the year?