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What You Should Teach Your Kids About Gifts This Christmas

As we’re coming up to Christmas, people all over the world are freaking out about gifts. But what is giving truly about?

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Christmas is around the corner. For every five-year-old intent on getting the biggest ever set of Lego and every sulky teenager wanting a new pair of label jeans, a parent is freaking out about the paycheck.

Christmas Is Supposed To Be About Joy

Christmas is supposed to be about giving. About joy. About families, friends and strangers coming together. About community. About reaching out. About helping one another.

So it’s not really about the Lego, or the label jeans, is it?

Get us right — Lego is a brilliant invention. It’s a great educational toy. It’s brought millions of kids (and adults) joy. But nothing says you can’t build incredible things with sticks and stones, or pine cones.

It’s the experience people want. Lego just managed to pack it in a box.

You don’t need much money to come up with fun and creative games. Nor do you need to be super rich to find a cool pair of jeans. You just need a little bit of creativity. And it probably helps if you know how to turn second-hand finds into epic creations.

Giving Should Bring You a Gift

The thing is, giving, when done from the heart, leads to happiness. Stress about what gifts to buy, or the lack of money to buy them, does not, on the other hand. What makes people happy is the sense of having truly brought something to another person. This is often most noticeable when people do random acts of kindness, or volunteer for a cause.

Stats back this up. Studies have shown that volunteering improves your health, reduces stress and depression and increases lifespan. Not only that, it usually opens the door to a whole new social life as you meet new people. (1) (2) (3)

Seeing the Miracle of Giving in Action

As we work with volunteers all the time (Maria at Little Angels, Bola at IMO Missions) we see the joy of giving in action. People think when they come to volunteer they do it to give of themselves. And they do. But what they get in return is so powerful they often end up thinking that they were the ones on the receiving end of someone giving. Because what they get is gratitude.

“At first it’s a little bit of an adjustment because it’s so different. And the resources you’re used to having are just not available. […] The patients are so grateful and so thankful. […] It’s been absolutely unbelievable and I’m very sad tomorrow is the last day. It’s rewarding more than you could even imagine. There aren’t even words to describe it. It will be hard to return home. And I never thought I’d say that.” - Dr. Julie, San Antonio, TX

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Patients waiting to be served by IMO Missions at their medical outreach program in Jos, Nigeria. 
 

Seeing this kind of happiness in action is beautiful. It also makes us wonder: what can you do to turn Christmas into something that beautiful? A Christmas where people truly feel touched by each other’s kindness?

Teaching Our Children About the True Joy of Giving

As parents, we have a responsibility to teach our kids about happiness. About what creates true happiness. And the only way to truly do that, is to let them experience it.

Bola’s daughters have partaken in medical missions since they were kids — they both had profound experiences realizing what it feels like to be useful. How rewarding it is to give to another person. 

I (Maria), met the kids I raise at Little Angels. The little one is only two, but the twins are now eleven and I’m thinking about how I can teach them the value of giving. The miracle Little Angels brought me. The miracle that, in part, was them.

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Kids Maria mentors in Hangberg. 

As you fret about what to give friends, colleagues and family this Christmas, stop to think what would actually touch their hearts and souls. Maybe it would just be spending time with you? Building something out of sticks and stones? Searching for cool jeans in unexpected places? Turning old clothes into fashion statements? Or maybe you should simply give them the gift of giving: take them volunteering for a day, or a month, or simply have them bake some cookies for the neighbors and the homeless people.

And if you fear being alone this Christmas, don’t. Sign up to volunteer somewhere instead. There are plenty of people needing you this Christmas. So don’t you ever worry about not being an essential part of this world. 

1) https://www.huffingtonpost.com/hilary-young/benefits-of-volunteering_b_4151540.html

2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2937248/

3) https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/volunteering-may-be-good-for-body-and-mind-201306266428  


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