Service to others is an important virtue in our house, especially during the holiday season. Every year we make the memories of our service projects stand out just as much as the memories of boxes and bows on Christmas morning.
I love hearing stories of families volunteering at shelters or soup kitchens on December 24, as my kids get older I hope to incorporate more. Here is some of the cheer we've spread this season, please share what you do as well, so we may continue to inspire and rejoice in God, as well as teach our children the values of good citizenship.
Dress the Dolls, through United Bank, is one of our favorite traditions this time of year, and this year we participated with other members of our homeschool group, which was a lot of fun. The kids dress dolls for children in need and they are distributed through a local service center's Christmas gift basket program. Read more about it here: Dress the Dolls. My daughter loves dressing a doll for another little girl who doesn't have any dolls, it makes her so happy, you can truly see the joy of giving beaming through her.
This year we learned through friends of another fun service project, Operation Christmas Child, through Samaritan's Purse, where the kids fill shoe boxes to send overseas to children in conjunction with a word of God outreach program. We filled one for a boy and one for a girl, ages 2-4. The kids had so much fun picking out all the goodies to fill the boxes and wrapping them. Also, we found this video to watch about it, which helped them visualize who they were helping. Operation Christmas Child.
The local daily newspaper just headlined an article about Black Friday on the front page that I was quoted in. Daily News Article. Perhaps those filling their carts with gadgets they can't afford this time of year will pause to give second thought about the reason for the season and rethink what they get swept up in this time of year, you never know who God is trying to reach through little avenues. My monthly column, Mercy in Mamahood, touched on the issue of Black Friday last year: Happy Holidays, not Hectic Ones.
Another recent program we've enjoyed is one I just started up this fall for our homeschool group, called "Mondays at Metron" where the kids meet monthly with the elderly residents of the local retirement center and do seasonal crafts. We're coming up on our third trip there and it has been going well so far, I think over the course of this school year the kids will be more and more comfortable and familiar with, as my kindergartner says, "other people's great grandmas and papas". Also the residents seem to light up seeing the little ones and having visitors. My friend Marya expressed the benefits well in this article about it: Homeschoolers meet with Metron residents article.
Never think your kids are too young to appreciate the meaning behind service opportunities. Just as with the start of any traditions, decorations, activities, etc. the memories build on each other. Each year they'll get more and more out of it. Children will find joy and excitement in helping others when they see that excitement reflected in you. As parents, we have the ability to lead by example and show through our actions where the emphasis of the season should be placed. Santa is fun, (just as the tooth fairy and other tales are) and in our house he has a place amongst the festivities, but he shouldn't outshine lessons of character, Agape, service and citizenship. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, with minimal effort, you can strike a great balance between it all.