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Give and You Shall Recieve

As Christmas gets closer and closer, it is sometimes hard for my kids to separate the holiday from the fact that they “want” and “need” stuff. And as a parent I like to give gifts that they will enjoy, not just for the day or the week, but gifts that they can really use. Sometimes I am successful at this and other times I am not. But either way, I am not a big fan of just giving kids anything and everything that they want. Despite this, my kids seem to have plenty and are in need of very little.

This Saturday, we had a Christmas party for all the children and their families in our small church. There were about thirteen kids, ages one to nine. And then there was Violet. None of these families or children “need” much. We might not be rich, but we are hardly a needy group. And so, we made the decision that this year, instead of the kids doing a small gift exchange and receiving a ten dollar gift that they really did not “need” we would ask them to donate however much money they felt comfortable donating toward an organization through which we had “adopted” an orphan in Kenya.

This was, of course, met with some controversy. Because, giving to others is not always comfortable. But the goal was for our children to learn that sometimes giving, without the expectation of receiving in return, has rewards far greater than any gift they could ever unwrap.

So Saturday evening the older kids sat and watched a forty-minute video on the lives of these children in Africa. We saw children whose parents had died from AIDS. We saw women and children living in small mud huts with nothing at all to eat. We saw how during the hunger season that many children would not be able to make the trek to their school because they had no food and no energy to do anything other than sleep. We saw how sometimes just having clean drinking water was a struggle.

We then gathered all the children together and talked about how blessed we were. And that we wanted to them to give however much they felt they could give. But whatever they could give would make a huge difference for these children a world away. I did not tell my kids how much to give. I simply told them to watch the video and then decide. And I can tell you that personally, I wondered what in the world these families would think of all the food that we threw away when our party was over. These families that might have meat only twice a year, would be amazed at the masses of labeled bins and treats in my pantry. But, you never know how kids are taking in what they see.

I did not ask my kids how much they gave. But Violet came to me later, and I could tell she had been deeply affected. “Mom,” she said. “Before I saw the video I was thinking I would give ten dollars and then I thought maybe twenty. But, after seeing everything, I decided I would give fifty dollars. I wish had had more to give”

Fifty dollars would be a lot for an adult to reach into their wallet and give away. Violet has been saving for a digital video camera to aid in filmmaking. But, Violet is also sensitive to the inequalities in the world around us. Her empathy and sense of what is right are often far above her years. And I watched her face as she watched the video of the Kenyan orphans at play and I could see it in her eyes, that her heart was hurting for how much these children need and that basic survival and hygiene is often in question. And as she told me, with much feeling, how much she gave, I don’t know if I have ever been more proud of my daughter.

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