Giving to Others this Season: A Community Lesson


One of the most meaningful lessons we can hope to take away from the year 2020 is the value of how we can serve our community by doing for (and giving to) others. Let’s understand how our actions can, and do, affect those around us.


It was very late on Christmas Eve, or perhaps, early Christmas morning. Upon the wall-to-wall textured carpet of the family room were crumpled instructions, a medley of tools, and pieces of particle board that, when assembled, would become a play kitchen, sure to delight the sweet four-year-old currently harboring visions of sugar plums just down the hall.


a close up of a mint green child's play kitchen


“Santa” carefully curated a gift list for each child, often planning months in advance. Not every year brought a present too large to fit under the tree, so this year was special. As mom and dad wearily cleaned up all evidence of the late-night assembly and shuffled to bed, they captured a few winks of sleep ere the children awoke.


Before the sun had even thought of getting up, the footfalls of three very excited kids thundered down the hall as they beelined for the Christmas tree to see what Santa brought. The noise broke through the early stages of REM sleep that mom and dad had managed to reach, as they reluctantly donned robes and slippers to witness the magic of Christmas morning.


a young girl peeking around the corner at the Christmas tree on Christmas morning


No sooner had they rounded the corner of the family room when they caught sight of their daughter, hair a tangled mess, and eyes crusted from sleep. Those crusty eyes widened as she noticed Santa’s big gift that year, and with confusion, she turned. Her parents hardly had a chance to sink into the sofa when she inquired who it was for. Upon hearing her fortune that Christmas, she exclaimed, “A kitchen? Why would Santa bring THAT?” at which point, she ignored the present altogether and went off in search of her stocking.


Mom and dad exchanged an “are you kidding me” glance, mouths agape as all of the effort of the night before set into their weary bones. 


That sweet child? She was meShe was I … It was me. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but to be honest, we all have our ungracious moments. Mine just happened to nearly ruin Christmas that year.


The phrase, “it is better to give than to receive,” takes on new meaning once you have children. The high that you get from your child’s excitement fuels the holiday season. But perhaps we put too much stock in it. After all, the holidays are about so much more than what is under the tree. And that same high comes from reaching out to help others.


This season, consider granting your kids the gift of giving. Spark in them the joy that comes from having an impact on others. This year, especially, due to COVID, so many families are struggling to simply pay rent or buy food, let alone figure out how to reap joy from having something special for their kids for the holidays. 


a little girl giving a donation in a Salvation Army pot


Before the holidays approach, do a sweep of the playroom with your kids, bundle up the toys they no longer play with, and donate them. Then, craft a list of ways you can give back. The United Way in St. Louis is an excellent resource for discovering volunteer opportunities. In addition, do a google search and find out which organizations may be struggling to meet their holiday goals due to the restrictions placed upon them in 2020. Find odd jobs for your kids that allow them to earn money, so that the donations you make come in part from their efforts. Many small, local businesses are struggling. Make a donation. Purchase gifts locally. Collectively, we have the power to help our neighbors through this economic downturn. There is so much need in our community, and no better time to teach children the value of pulling together to help out a neighbor. 


This holiday season will surely be like no other as we pivot with the restrictions placed upon us. Instead of feeling loss over the deferred traditions and celebrations this year, feel the expanse of pride that wells up inside when you make a difference.


If there is one lesson we should take away from 2020, it is that we need to pull together and take care of one another.