We started doing service gifts for Christmas about ten years ago where we told our children we only wanted gifts of service from them. These gifts are so meaningful to me because when I get them on Christmas morning, it feels like I am part of the true spirit of Christmas.
It is a triple-play: My child is sacrificing something-time, money, energy-someone is benefiting from their service, and my husband and I get to experience that on Christmas morning. All three parties are touched in a meaningful way through the following chain of events:
- First they have to ponder and notice who around them needs help.
- Then they come up with a plan, something that will help someone else.
- They help someone they know.
- That helps them feel good.
- They think about it some more and write it in a letter.
- They give the letter to my husband and I for Christmas.
- We rejoice in their experience and get to feel the good feeling of Christmas.
- I have their letter to remind me through the years about their experience.
- I keep these precious letters in a notebook, to remember and read again and again.
Here are a few examples that we received in letters on Christmas morning:
- My daughter’s friend Brad had little parental support as a college student. He developed kidney stones and had a high medical bill of $2000.00 to pay. My daughter organized a group of Brad’s friends and they were able to band together and pay his medical bill.
- My son determined he wanted a closer relationship with his youngest brother and sister. Through the fall season before Christmas, he took each of them out weekly, to have one on one time with them. I got to witness their excitement before he came and their happiness after their time together. A little sibling zip date to enhance their relationship.
- Another son and his wife helped a new member and his family in their ward. My son provided rides through the year to church and other places and they had them over for dinner.
- Another daughter gave us the gift of focusing on my husband’s mother while she was in a care facility and unable to have the visitors she was used to because of Covid 19. She said through their facetiming and visits through the closed window but on the phone, this daughter has seen a common thread in her grandmother’s life, “resilience with a dash of boldness.”
- A teenage son gave me 30 pairs of socks each bundled with a protein bar and a picture of Jesus, secured by a rubber band that I can give to people when I pull up to a stoplight and they have a sign asking for help. My daughter-in-law helped him research what helps people the most, and socks are scarce for indigent people. Many times as I gave out this gift, I have heard, “Thanks! This is something I really need!”
No material possession means more to me than my children noticing that someone needs help, and for them to take the time and reach out and give what is needed. Christmas has become much more meaningful to me as we have continued this tradition.
This is a good time of year to remind my children what I want for Christmas.