The Gift of the Magi

I first heard of O Henry’s The Gift of the Magi when I was in high school.  Though it was published in 1905, the short story’s timeless theme of self sacrifice captivated me.  Inspired by the costly gifts from the magi in the nativity story, in this tale, a young married couple struggling to get by, sacrifice their most prized possessions for each other.

If you haven’t read it, its a must read.

During a time of year when there is so much focus on receiving, I want to focus my children’s hearts on giving.  

Teaching our kids about sacrificial giving is an invaluable lesson. Our giving should cost us something. Money, time, convenience, etc… Young children obviously don’t have much to give in the way of finances, but they can be taught to give of their time. Here are some ideas to teach children the art of sacrificial giving.

School holiday gift shops– While at first thought these events seem like a waste of money, they can be a great tool to teach children about giving back and responsibility.  At the school’s suggestion, I had my school aged child complete chores around the house to earn money to buy gifts at the holiday shop.  His investment in the process, made him feel so proud of himself.  They will really be his gifts to give because he worked for them.

The giving manger– We are starting a new tradition in our family this year.  It is called the giving manger. This little manger arrived in the mail with a bundle of hay, baby Jesus, and story book to explain the idea. The concept is so simple, but very engaging for little ones. We put a piece of hay for each kind deed we do, to prepare a warm bed for baby Jesus on Christmas day. After explaining it last night my kids are excited to get started. There is also a free printable on their website which lists many suggestions on how your children can show kindness.

Volunteering as a family– As a child I remember serving Thanksgiving meals at homeless shelters with my family and wrapping Christmas presents for those in need with my aunt. I consider myself so blessed that my family instilled a heart for service in me at an early age. My children are very young, but in the future I look forward to volunteering with them as well.

Color a Smile-This is a fantastic organization located right here in NJ.  The concept is so simple that even a toddler can do it.  Basically you print coloring pages from their website, mail them in, and then the organization distributes them to troops overseas or to the elderly.  You can even sign up to send coloring pages for a year to a specific person.

Making and delivering gifts for neighbors– I love how the holidays draw us to connect with people. At a time of year that is so cold and dark, we barely see our neighbors.  But for as long as I have had children, we have been making cookies and cards to share with our neighbors. Just those few minutes of connection are a great way to remind people that they are important to you.

Watch or read the Mickey Mouse version of the story

My heart’s desire is to instill in my children a passion to see and meet the needs of others.  I hope that giving to others, fills their hearts with more joy than all the toys on Christmas morning.