A Different Kind of Giving This Christmas
While we’re writing this it’s mid-December and everywhere we look people are thinking about and already celebrating the holidays. In fact, this weekend we participated in an event, the Gift of Giving, with Kids Helping Kids in Stamford, CT. We helped to create a dignified shopping experience for kids who may not otherwise have the means to buy gifts for their families. Thousands of new and gently used gifts were donated including toys, games, clothes, jewelry, books and more. Over 400 children participated. Each chose three gifts to give to members of their families, had them gift-wrapped, and made cards for children in local hospitals to encourage and lift the spirits of kids who are hospitalized over the holidays. It was an awesome experience of tremendous generosity and an inspiration to us and hundreds of families in the Stamford area.
All the focus around giving gifts has made an interesting impact on our family this year. Often we spend much of December thinking about, buying and sometimes creating gifts that we think others in our family would really appreciate and love. But this year, because our One Year Road Trip finds us in a 17-foot trailer and living much more simply, gift-giving is taking on a new look, new expectations, and has inspired us to think creatively about how we will be generous this year with our own giving.
First, if we give tangible gifts they have to be very small and we may need to give up other things we have with us now to make room for them. That means if we get some new books to read, then older books that we’ve already read will be donated to others. And a new toy to bring along might mean an older toy becomes a gift for a cousin or goes into storage at a grandparent’s house until we return to California next year. The rule for this year is that all the gifts we give each other have to fit inside our stockings! It may sound like a bummer Christmas, but it’s actually helped us get more creative and intentional with our gift giving.
Second, we are trying to think about gifts of time that don’t take up physical space, but are valuable and special gifts of a shared experience together. That might mean a special date with mom or dad, or a family visit to a new and exciting location.
Third, we are thinking more intently about gifts that would make this One Year Road Trip better in more practical ways. We’re in colder climates so warm socks or a new pair of mittens could be a LOT more exciting than in years gone by. While a book light might have been a simple stocking stuffer last year, this year it’s the main attraction and could be the most treasured gift!
Finally, we’re learning to shift our expectations and remain content with our new tiny lifestyle. Though there’s no tree, there’s great joy when we turn on the strand of Christmas lights that run along the ceiling of our trailer. And while we couldn’t bring the wooden Advent calendar we’ve used for 10 years, the paper calendar we received from Germany reminded us that our friends are far more valuable than the calendar packed away in a closet back home. As we live smaller, little things make a bigger impact.
Which leads us to an idea that our 11 year-old son, Jack, came up with. As he thought about Christmas gifts and all the joy we witnessed at the Gift of Giving event, he thought, “Why just limit that to a few weeks in December? Why not find a way to be generous EVERY day.” So here’s Jack’s challenge to our family and to you. This January, after the eggnog is gone and the tinsel is packed away, commit to doing one awesome thing every day for someone else. It could be simple or extravagant, routine or out of the ordinary. It could even be something that grows exponentially every day like the 12 Days of Christmas. Here are a few ideas he’s proposed. Try one of these or come up with your own! But whatever you do, make it generous and full of love. And if you want, tweet us about your 31 days of giving at @oneyearroadtrip and #31daysofgiving!
- Give someone different a hug every day
- Hold the door for three people every day
- Give a stranger a compliment every day
- Tell a family member something you like about them every day
- Make your family a meal every day
- Send a postcard of encouragement to someone every day
- Make a new friend every day
- Teach someone new a secret handshake every day
- Pay for the person behind you every day
- Let someone in front of you in line every day
From the Editor
At Conscious, we are inspired by remarkable people, and so we set out to tell stories that highlight real human interactions and human dignity. You can read more stories like this when you pick up your copy of Conscious Magazine. Subscribe today via our Conscious Shop and subscribe to Conscious Updates.