Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunshine for the Soul...Sunday!

"Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself to others."
-- -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
It's that time of the year...
time to buy boxes of oranges for our family to eat and enjoy. When I do buy boxes of oranges for us, I always think about my Grandpa Tolman. Every year he would tell us about his favorite Christmas when he was a little boy and how he only got an ORANGE in his sock along with a few pieces of hard-tack other gifts. Just an orange and a few pieces of candy.
He said how happy they were!

My! How times have changed. Nowadays, we have an abundance of fruit and veggies available all throughout the year and the gifts that people give each other are SO extraordinary and it seems that a lot of times we give gifts because we think we need to, not because we really want to.

In 2006 Tracy heard the following segment one morning on the radio during his commute to work (shown below) and it struck a chord with him. He came home that night and talked to me about it. For several years we had been making a trend toward simplifying Christmas and searching for ways to better celebrate the true meaning. This article was just one more positive confirmation in our hearts, that we were on the right track.
The best gifts, don't always cost the most!

Many parents are willing to pay big bucks for toys during the holiday season. But the best gift we can give our children might be showing some restraint.
Commentator Dawn Turner Trice finds it hard to understand why families are willing to spend that kind of money on gifts, high-tech or otherwise.

Ms. DAWN TURNER TRICE (Novelist, Chicago Tribune, Author, “Only Twice I Wished for Heaven”):
"Not so long ago parents could fill their kids' Christmas stockings with an Etch-a-Sketch, a Lego set, even a jar of Play-Doh. You're thinking about buying your kid a Lego set this year? Why not Lego Mindstorms NXT. Your little darling can build a wireless robot and program it over a computer. The price tag: $249. At least they haven't figured out a way to make Play-Doh cost three figures - not yet.

I know my 11-year-old compares her Christmas list with her friends and often wishes for more expensive toys. But my upbringing was much more modest. And even though my husband and I could afford those things now, we worry about the message of entitlement.
We know that beyond a world of toys and make believe, is a real world where millions of children face war, starvation, and disease.
Many don't even have clean drinking water.

Even in this country, about 12 million children live in poverty. We have to be careful that we aren't teaching our little girl it's okay to revel in relative luxury while other kids struggle to cobble up the basics. I want her to understand that her lot is not a birthright, it's a blessing.

One of the most valuable gifts any parent can give this year is perspective, a reminder to our children just how fortunate they are. A trip to a soup kitchen, or just a trip down to the basement to bundle up last year's toys so they can be given to a charity.

Such a gift is priceless, both for a kid in need and for one who has it all!"
(Christmas 2006)
Jade and Ethan holding their cards we picked off a Tree at Perkins Restaurant and (the gifts that they bought for 2 children in need, with their own money...with a little help from us)

That year, Tracy and I talked to our kids about helping someone else that Christmas and spending less on our own gifts. We thought they would complain, but they went right to their rooms, got their money and wanted to go shopping.

It was a touching experience and a tradition that we are still carrying on today.
I know that many families have these same traditions of helping others and it feels SO good to be a part of such a wonderful thing!
Times have changed from when my Grandpa was a little boy, getting an orange and being content with such a simple pleasure (a citrus delight in winter time!) ... to the current situation of black friday, shopping madness and being inundated each and every day with ad-slicks encouraging shoppers to show their love for their friends and family by opening up their wallets instead of opening their hearts. Christmas has become a holiday steeped in extreme commercialism and has indeed given some a sense of "entitlement".
I'm grateful that Tracy and I are on the same page of this aspect of life.
We used to
go a little overboard ourselves with Christmas, but our holidays are now quite simple, with mostly simple gifts. And, to our credit, we've never used credit cards or pulled money we've been saving for the future, to get through the holidays (one year when Tracy was still in college, every gift was homemade)

We've even had Christmases with no gifts at all except for classic holiday treats, time off from work, games, puzzles, good memories and warm hearts.

As time has progressed and our earnings have increased, we have had Christmases in our homes where we look at each other in awe with the pile of wrapping paper after the morning excitement has waned. We have both known for some time, simplifying Christmas would bring more joy to the holidays for us and our children.
We have no real problem with purchasing expensive items if they are wanted and earned. However, for the most part, we have stopped exchanging these as Christmas gifts. Since our kids know they don't need to look at Christmas as the only time for a "mother load", they are quite content to enjoy simple holiday traditions and look to the future for the items and gadgets they want.
They are also much more thoughtful about what they REALLY want when they have the opportunity to earn some of the money themselves.
As I think about the millions of children who are living in poverty and disease who wouldn't know what it is like to have simple things like a nourishing bowl of soup, an orange or an apple to eat and FRESH, clean drinking water, It helps me keep life in perspective and cherish the SIMPLE things in life.

As Dawn Turner Trice indicated,
our lot is not a birthright, it is a blessing!


Connie said...

Beautifully said. I feel the same way. We are so richly blessed but not rich by the world's standards. Christmas is a time for service, and gifts of time. The other gifts end up at the DI the next year anyway.
You're such a good example to your family and to us!
Thanks for sharing these thoughts on the Sabbath day!

Ann Marie said...

As always.. great thoughts!
Your family are great examples!

We just bought a box of Oranges yesterday also.. I look forward to an abundance of vitamn C this month.. We need it!

The Garden of Egan said...

Amen and well said! I couldn't agree more.
Our family is looking through a box of pictures of when they were little and laughing their heads off. I'm making a batch of cookies and just listening to their banter. Life doesn't get better than this. Not one of them remember the presents that they got for Christmas 15 years ago. They remember how they felt though.
Enjoy your holidays!
(like I needed to tell YOU that!)

wileyfamilyof5 said...

Kimmie-You expressed my feelings exactly. We only give our children 3 gifts like the Christ child. I think kids these days are so spoiled. Christmas use to be about getting things you need not want. We all need a dodse of humble pie.
Thanks for this post.