The Day My Child Became a Giver

gift from Santa

Our family began a Christmas Eve tradition two years ago. Whether we are home or on the road, we put cash into 17 envelopes that have been decorated by my children. My children walk up to 17 people that look like they could use a smile. Out of the 34 people who received an envelope, never once did my children get it wrong. There were tears. There were smiles. There was hope.

Let me tell you how this tradition began …

My older daughter has always gravitated toward the world’s suffering—always been one to want to know the world in its truest state. Starting when she was very small, the recurring question at bedtime was always: “Mama, tell me something bad that happened in the news today.”

With reluctance, I explained in words she could understand about the atrocities that many faced, the dangers that lurked, and those who had lost so much. And then I stood by and watched her digest every troubling morsel I offered. Time after time, I worried that it was too much, too overwhelming, too disturbing. After all, the problems of the world are vast and insurmountable. At least that is what I used to think.

But thanks to the heart of a child, now I know differently.

It was my then 8-year-old daughter’s idea to go into the heart of the city with cash tucked inside lovingly decorated envelopes. Much to my surprise, hundreds of homeless people had gathered for a food distribution. I’ll admit I felt scared in that moment. I wanted to protect my children, cover their eyes and spare them from seeing such desperation and despair. But I didn’t.

I could see my daughter take in the world her mother spoke of—the one that could be cruel, hungry, desperate, and cold.

But she was not scared.

Oh no, she had been waiting for this moment, dreaming of this moment, when she could do something to help.

She later wrote this:

“We were in the downtown area of our city when we drove past something I will never forget. Many homeless people were crowded around this broken-down truck. A man on the truck was holding up an orange and then throwing it out for someone to catch. When I saw people pushing to get to the oranges that made my heart drop. They were fighting for a piece of fruit. That is how little they had. But beside the truck, I saw an old man. He was eating a sandwich with an orange and I thought to myself, “I want to help this man.” I quickly hopped out of the car and gave him an envelope. Earlier, he seemed so gloomy, but as we drove off, I saw a smile. I felt so good!”

I thought the world’s problems were too heavy, too scary for my children. But my daughter taught me otherwise.

You see, her eight-year-old eyes did not look at the scene and see daunting global issues like poverty, violence, hardship, and hopelessness. She saw one man whose entire day could be brightened by a mere piece of fruit. A mere piece of fruit.

And when you see something as painful and as beautiful as that, everything changes.

This child walked right up and stared directly into the eyes of suffering. She watched in awe as tears of joy collected in a man’s eyes simply because of her unexpected presence on a dingy city street on a bitter cold morning. And from that moment on, this child became a full-fledged giver.

Because when you have the most important things in life – like love, faith, and family – there is nothing you own that you can’t give away.

This holiday season, I encourage you to give your children the gift of opportunity. Let them know what it feels like to be the reason a smile is brought to the face of despair. Let the light of compassion be sparked in our hearts. Let hope be contagious this holiday season.

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Rachel Stafford

Rachel Macy Stafford is a certified special education teacher with a Master’s Degree in education and ten years experience. She shares her journey to let go of daily distraction and grasp what really matters on her blog Hands Free Mama and on Facebook at The Hands Free Revolution.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of DrGreene.com. The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or DrGreene.com, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

  1. Cynthia Eppley

    This is a beautiful idea.

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  2. kathye

    Our son’s school is collecting change for those less fortunate every Wednesday. last week our son came home and told me that his teacher said he couldn’t donate without permission from his parents. My heart sank because he was sad that he was not allowed to donate. I told him that he did not need my permission an to donate to those less fortunate and that it was always ok by me. I asked him where he got the change he was donating and he told me he took a handful out of his piggy bank because he had enough to share with someone who needed it more than he did. Our son is 7 1/2 and I have made it a point to let him know when we donate and why. I’m so glad his little heart was able to receive the lesson I taught him and try to apply it. I hope he continues in that path of helping those less fortunate.

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  3. Stacie Ann Huppert

    It’s great that you can do this for people. Some of us though can’t afford toilet paper let alone giving things to complete strangers.

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    • Tammi Maitland Walker Graber

      Some day you will and you will give back. Your time is coming- work hard, believe good things will happen and have the best attitude! Plan your work and work your plan!!

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  4. Beth Johnson

    What a beautiful tradition. Thank you and bless your children’s giving hearts. Our family may need to incorporate this into our lives as well. Peace and goodness.

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  5. MLA7024

    Thanks. We’ve been trying to brainstorm worthy Xmas ideas, that a good one. Do they usually tell people how much $ is in the envelope?

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  6. Brenda Player

    And just know your giving doesn’t have to be huge. I was recently given some household supplies, things you have to ( or need to) buy to keep your household running. I decided to share some with someone I know that I knew could use a little help. Not having to buy these things helped her to be able to use her money elsewhere (Christmas). Just share, no matter how small, it. An make an amazing difference for someone else. :)

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    • Hands Free Mama

      Great point, Brenda! Thank you for taking time to comment!

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  7. Melinda Yates

    Thank you for sharing. Just today was I was given the opportunity to pay it forward. Put a small smile on a single mother’s face. It did more for my heart, than for hers this I am sure of. May we all be given the chance to experience the joy of being able to give, large or small.

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    • Hands Free Mama

      That is lovely, Melinda. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful description of how one’s heart feels when acting in compassion for another human being.

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