It's Better to Give

Thursday, December 20, 2007 11 Comments A+ a-


I really wish my children came with instruction manuals. It would be so wonderful to look up something in the index, flip to that page, and read the directions. Half the time I have no clue what I’m doing, no idea if our actions are going to shape decent human beings, and we definitely have no guarantees. We just do the best that we can, often deferring to our gut instincts.

I desperately want Hudson and Devyn to learn that Christmas is not about receiving presents, heck, it’s not about presents at all. But since they’re kids and wrapped boxes are everywhere they turn right now, the least I can do is help them understand that giving is far better than receiving.

At the beginning of the month, we were at the mall and right there, next to Santa’s Workshop, was a table and a tree, both dedicated to Toys for Tots. We marched right past Santa’s Workshop, without stopping I might add, and up to the tree. And from that tree, Devyn and I selected a name of a two-year-old girl. I knelt next to my own three-year-old and explained that we were going to find the best gift we could for Jeannie; I tried explaining to Devyn that some children just weren’t as fortunate as she was and we were going to share some of our own blessings with Jeannie.

Yesterday was the deadline for the toys to be turned back in. We’d selected some play-doh and a beautiful princess doll for Jeannie. During the drive to the mall, Devyn kept oohing and aahing over the princess, holding it high for me to see. She kept asking to open it, wanting to play with the dresses, the prince, and the doll. And each time I explained that it did not belong to her, it belonged to the little girl named Jeannie. She’d pout, sticking her lower lip out as far as she could, but then returned to pointing out the various things inside the package. I worried about the outcome of this experience but kept it to myself.

Once there, I grabbed Hudson and the play-doh, while Devyn clutched the princess tightly to her chest. Again we marched past Santa’s Workshop and up to the same table where kind ladies were accepting the gifts. I looked down at Devyn and asked her to hand over the princess. She looked at me, looked at the extended hand, and back at me. I watched the inner struggle as she reluctantly handed over the princess; I could almost see the wheels turning in her brain, not quite sure what was going on. As she handed over the play-doh, again she was hesitant in her giving. The ladies smiled, thanked us, and gave Devyn a sticker. And then, only after she’d handed over the gifts, did we stop to see Santa Claus.

I doubt Devyn understood any of the lesson I was trying to teach but when we do this again next year, maybe it’ll be a little easier for her to let go of the gift.


I’m a coffee drinking, book reading, laundry procrastinating, husband and children loving, mess of a woman who believes that chips and salsa can fix anything. We have chickens running around the backyard, a mountain of dishes in the sink, and on any given morning, I have at least 10 school forms that need my signature or initials. It’s a crazy life {I prefer to call it controlled chaos}, but its ours.

11 comments

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Amazing Racer
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5:38 PM delete

Don't worry Jenn, she is "getting it!"

What wonderful character you are building in Devyn.

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Mary Hess
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7:25 AM delete

Yeah. Every time it will become easier for her to grasp. She's still young - but she'll get it! Don't worry!

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Haley
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8:28 AM delete

great minds think alike... you should read my blog on myspace... Kaydence was a trooper just like Devyn! You are such a wonderful mother!!

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AndiMae
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2:14 PM delete

What a great idea, Jenn! I too have struggled this year with wanting to teach Audrey what Christmas is all about-I will have to keep this idea in mind for next year!

P.S. I am in love with my sweet little boy too!

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Jamie
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9:12 PM delete

good job jen... my parents used to make us do crazy stuff like this when we were little and i DO remember and it HAS shaped who I am today

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Joy
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12:37 AM delete

That's a wonderful lesson!

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Joy
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12:37 AM delete

That's a wonderful lesson!

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5:40 PM delete

What a wonderful way to teach the true meaning of Christmas.

Jen in Jakarta

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Melody
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12:16 AM delete

You may not see her learning the lesson right now, but you are building foundational blocks to teach her the big lesson. She is learning by seeing your generosity and in time it will also come from her heart. Be the best role model for her and continue to show her how to give and she'll one day understand what a blessing it is to give to others.

I do have one suggestion that might add to her experience. The person she gave to this year was someone she didn't know and never met. I'm assuming their wasn't a picture of Jeannie on that tree (for privacy reasons). But next time if there was a way to find an actual person to give something to. Or even find a picture of a little girl around the appropriate age and name her Jeannie (whatever name you pick). Devyn might associate giving something to an actual person easier. Sometimes it's hard for a child to understand giving if they don't know who they are giving something to. Just an idea.....

Merry Christmas,
~*Melody*~

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Amy
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12:52 PM delete

What a great, great idea! I bet you she is getting it to some degree. She's a smart one! I'm going to have to try that next year.

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pedro
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4:22 PM delete

Right on, Jenn.

I have, quite frankly, begun to dread Christmas. I'm not a great gift-giver myself, but I despise the commercialism of Christmas. Sure, I realize that this commercialism has longstanding roots in America (Miracle on 34th street - need I say more?), but I suppose I have become more cynical and jaded with age.

Ginny and I have talked quite a bit about how we would like to impart these same values of service and compassion to our children, and we will begin to do so in the next few years as Anna gets older.

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