The holiday time is upon us, and every time we look in the retail environments or our own technology, there is a reminder that we are about to get busier and consumed with the many aspects of the upcoming season. With it comes the challenge and reality that when there is so much to do, we risk the beauty for us to enjoy it fully.
I know there are many families who find time during this hectic holiday season to give back in some way. Our hearts want to give to others through gift giving and time, as well as volunteerism for those less fortunate than us is stirred within us. There are so many ways to participate in a spirit of giving at any time of the year and like exercise, we may struggle to fit it in, but always feel great when we do.
In my home, one tradition that we have participated in over the years has been Operation Christmas Child. Simply explained, shoeboxes are used to create gifts for children in developing nations who may otherwise not receive a gift this year. It is such an enjoyable way to create a gift for a child whom we don’t know, by carefully selecting toys, clothing, school supplies and hygiene items to pack in a shoebox. We write a letter to the child receiving it, and perhaps a photo, knowing an interpreter will be available to share that with the child. Thanks to my parent’s role-modelling and passion for this program, my children have compiled shoeboxes every Christmas since they were preschoolers.
For the past few years I have introduced this shoebox drive to the students I work with at Conestoga College. The donations from staff and students this year was mind-blowing. By the final day of accepting donations, we set up a classroom like a Dollarama Store and allowed the students to create shoeboxes for delivery to the Operation Christmas Child Warehouse.
Watching young adult learners work in pairs for this initiative was heartwarming and overwhelmingly special. They discussed together what age and gender they would build a box for, then selected their items, and wrote kind letters to their unknown recipient. What makes this story so important is the circumstances surrounding these students. At a very busy time in the semester, complicated by mental health and diverse learning needs, it was like this experience allowed them to “press pause” in their stressful lives. Life’s demands went on hold for this endeavor and the internal joy was evident.
Giving back does that - kindness begets kindness. When we can focus on kindness toward others and giving back, it takes the emphasis off of the things that consume our energy onto others. It inspires gratitude and grace.
May your holiday season be fueled by the gift of giving.