Is Charity the Spirit of the Season?

When I was a moody preteen, I remember my mother stopped to help an elderly couple who seemed to be struggling on an icy Minnesota December day. At the time I was mortified that my meddlesome mother was butting into these strangers’ lives. Turned out they weren’t simply struggling with the ice. We got them home and my mother found their lives, in our “good neighborhood” to be in shambles. She got them home health care and got in touch with their relatives and she took care of them until things got worked out.

My father was less likely to talk to strangers but he was actively involved in community politics and we, his 5 kids spent many days walking door to door dropping off election literature for as my sister would muse- “the side that always loses!”  

Every year at Christmas my mom would have us sort through our toys to make room for what Santa would bring and to pass on our extra for those less fortunate than us… Santa liked generosity.

I give my parents a lot of credit for raising us to care about something bigger than ourselves and I think that is my commitment for my kids, too.

This time of year I hear lots of parents worried about making sure their kids understand the spirit of the holiday. They want to have their kids feed the homeless or donate to a charity. And I am not saying that is wrong but I am challenging you to look at what you want for your kids.

Charity to make us feel better isn’t really charity is it? What we want to do for our kids may not be the thing that our community really needs. We are addressing symptoms not systemic change. What opportunities are there this holiday season to fight for real justice? Are you fighting for a better world in the other 11 months, too?

Maybe we need to deal with our own privilege first. Remember, mostly our kids are going to grow up to be a lot like us. If we are able to buy our kids everything under the sun and our kids never do without and we are trying to make a point, we might want to look at our own values and choices. Managing our privilege and guilt is the best way not to pass them on.

Are you in touch with the spirit of generosity? Are you approaching the holidays with your values in check? Have you thought about what values your kids are seeing in your daily life?

Spend your money in a way that makes you proud. Create experiences. Do less. Take moments to wonder in amazement. Say thank you in a way that people hear with their hearts. Share with your community. Count your blessings, and your privilege. Tell people you love them. Support low income shops and immigrant family restaurants. Play and dance and laugh. Invite people who are lonely to dinner. Watch a simple mom’s kids. Charity begins at home. If no one in your real life is struggling, you might not be paying attention.

Happy Holidays!

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