The Gift of Giving by Brock Eastman

giftsPiled beneath the tree, dozens of gifts are wrapped in bright shiny paper, bows tied, name tags adhered. And if you have young kids, like I do, then you’ve likely bought them something they can interact with, such as a truck to roll, a doll to dress-up, or a book with pages they must turn.

I’m a proud daddy of four wonderful kids 7, 5, 3, and 1. Yes, you read that right, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I wrote last year, my wife and I try to teach our children the truth behind Christmas. What really lies at the center of the season is a gift from a Father who loves His children so much that He sent His one and only Son.

One of the reasons we focus on this particular fantastic gift is so that we can develop a giving heart in each of our children. Parents have the greatest responsibility in guiding their kids’ tender hearts and impressionable minds during this season. We are not to let them get caught up in the glamor of the latest and greatest toys or in the anticipation of one more thing that will soon be stuffed into a box high in a closet just days after Christmas. Instead, parents can give them a gift that will last their entire lives. We can teach them that giving is what we’re called to do and that God, Himself, set an example when he gave us Jesus in the manger. When you focus on this and make your family’s mission and purpose about giving, you will find richness in your family’s future spiritual heritage.

I invite you to take the challenge to begin changing your children’s focus, redirecting them to have hearts that put others first and that desire, even long, to give sacrificially.

The Nativity and Luke 2:1-20nativity-scene

We have a nativity set in a small alcove in our hall. A bright light shines on it from overhead, and at the center, is Baby Jesus in His manger. That’s a visible symbol our kids walk past, look at, and even touch. We’ve learned that a fancy glass nativity isn’t going to survive in our house, at least not yet. Instead, we have a nice plastic one that our kids are able to interact with.

My wife has a tradition from her childhood that we hide Baby Jesus until Christmas day, His birthday. When the kids find Baby Jesus, they place Him in the manger Then we sit together and read Luke 2:1-20 as a family and talk about the perfect gift that was given that day. Regardless of your kids’ ages, it’s never too soon to talk to them about Jesus’s birth and His purpose as the perfect plan for salvation.

Saint Nick
I shared this idea with you last year, but this time I’ve written a short fiction story that is on right now. You can read this story to your kids then take on your own Saint Nicking event as a family or with friends; here’s how:

  1. First, ask your church or a local shelter to find a family in need this Christmas. Be sure to ask the church or shelter for the names and ages of each family member. If possible find out clothing sizes (shirts, pants, shoes, etc.), any particular interests (books, princesses, cars, penguins), and specific needs (winter hats, school shoes, Bible, or water heater.)
  2. Next invite other donors to your house for a St. Nicholas party on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Assign one member of the family in need to each participating donor or group. Then read the story of Saint Nick aloud. We recommend The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving.
  3. With family members assigned and a list of suggested items in hand, everyone heads out to shop. We recommend 1 to 1 ½ hours for shopping. When everyone arrives back, the wrapping party begins. It’s a Christmas party too, so have everyone bring cookies to share.
  4. Now it’s time to deliver the gifts. The key to a successful Saint Nicking is the anonymity of it, just like Saint Nick. We want our kids to understand that these gifts are given without receiving credit. That brings me to an important point: If you have the address of the family, send one car to deliver the gifts to the front door. The challenge is to avoid being seen, so ring the doorbell, and leave before they answer. If you do not have the address, ask the church or shelter to deliver the presents to the family without revealing your identity.

Compassion Internationalcompassion-1

Teach your children about extreme poverty. Most children in the United States live a very blessed life and can’t grasp what abject poverty is. They have a roof over

their head, running water, three meals a day (and usually snacks), a comfy bed, clothes to wear, plenty of toys, people in their lives who love them, and hope for a promising future. But many children in the world have none of these things.

I am blessed to work for Compassion International and specifically with the Compassion Experience. The Compassion Experience is an interactive exhibit that you and your family can attend for free. It travels the country, and there is a good chance it’s been in or near your community. If not, it’ll be there soon.

The Compassion Experience allows your family to walk through the life of a child who grew up in extreme poverty through hearing their personal story and walking through rooms authentically designed to replicate their real home. This experience reveals the darkness of poverty that plagues kids and families around the world and shows firsthand the things they lack that we often take for granted; the very items listed above: shelter, clean water, food, clothes, love, and above all, hope.

This event is free and kid-friendly, geared for families to experience together. After you’ve gone through the exhibit with your children, they’ll want to make a difference; they’ll want to take action. And that happens through sponsoring a child. This is giving, this is understanding that most of us already have enough.

compassionSponsorship helps my wife and me in our quest to develop giving hearts in our children. Through our ability to interact with our sponsor children via letters, we discuss how our lives are different, and why $38 a month is nothing to sacrifice. It’s the equivalent of my wife and I skipping Starbucks once a week (8 cups = $40), it’s skipping pizza night once a month ($44), not going to the movies but waiting for Redbox ($42), not getting that new shirt and pair of pants at Old Navy ($60), or not having lunch at Chick-fil-A this week ($32). The point is, there are hundreds of dollars that we spend on things that have no long-term value, unlike the impact your monthly sponsorship and your letters will have on that one child in poverty. That one child’s life will be changed, their family will be changed, and their community will be changed.

I know firsthand from traveling to El Salvador and meeting one of our sponsor children that our giving and our letters are having an impact. I’ve seen it. I’ve spoken with our child’s mother. I’ve seen the joy of the kids in the Compassion program at their local church. I’ve heard the stories of the kids who have gone from hopelessness to hope. I’ve listened to a little child give their life to Jesus. Sponsorship is the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. It is a tangible way to teach our kids about giving above and beyond and about making a real difference.

My hope this Christmas is that your family will join mine in teaching our kids that there is so much more to God’s plan that unfolded two thousand years ago in Bethlehem—that God didn’t intend for this day to be about the stacks of presents. He intended for us to see that the perfect Gift had been delivered. This Gift would teach us that sacrifice and giving of and beyond ourselves was His desire for our lives.

brockBrock Eastman lives in Colorado with his wife, four kids, two cats, and a leopard gecko. Brock is the author of The Quest for Truth series, the Sages of Darkness series, Showdown with the Shepherd in the Imagination Station series, and the novella Wasted Wood. He writes articles for FamilyFiction digital magazine and Clubhouse magazine. You may have seen him on the Official Adventures in Odyssey podcast and on its Social Shout-Out. He was the first producer of and launched the Odyssey Adventure Club. Brock works for Compassion International, whose mission is to release kids from poverty worldwide. Brock enjoys getting letters and artwork from fans. Visit Brock at his website, or find him on Facebook or Twitter.

Experience the Gift of Giving this Christmas by sponsoring a child through Compassion International!

Head to today to begin your sponsorship.