Every Christmas, I discuss what to give to my niece, Ayana. I say this because Ayana is a girl who has been given almost everything she asked for every Christmas. When she was three, her parents bought her a Jeep Barbie. At four o’clock she was bought a 25-inch color television. At five o’clock they bought her a computer for her bedroom and at six o’clock they bought her a cell phone. So you can see when I decided to buy her a doll for her seventh birthday, I was way behind her time. Of course, since I have no kids, I have no idea what kids want these days. Technology is all the rage and kids are so tech-savvy that the toys that pleased us as kids have passed away.
Ayana entered the room and ran to my Christmas tree, under which lay boxes of small gifts. I usually give two or three “small” gifts so that the children feel like they are getting “a lot”. Ayana opened her gift of hers from me, and when she saw that she was a doll, she sighed and said in disappointment: “Another doll!” She promptly placed him on the floor, got up, and sank onto the sofa, sulking. Her neighbor Leesa, who came to my house with Ayana, looked at her and said: “I’ll take it if you don’t want it.” Ayana, still sulking, said, “Go on. I don’t want that. I have a lot of dolls.”
Mind you, I was sitting across the room from Ayana, listening to this display of discontent. My feelings were hurt because I believed Ayana was ungrateful. But when Leesa took the doll and hugged her like she was a long lost sister, I realized Ayana was just a little girl. She was seven, for God’s sake. She was reacting to a situation created by the adults, her parents and me, her aunt. Her parents had given her the best of her and each year they had to surpass what they had given her the previous year. So if a child gets a computer on his fifth birthday, a little doll on his seventh birthday pales in comparison.
Leesa, however, did not come from a medium family. Her parents have struggled to make ends meet every month. Just a year before her, her mother died of cancer and left Leesa all alone. Her father did his best to be a mother and father to Leesa, but for every child who has lost a mother, no one can replace her mother. Leesa’s father gave Leesa what she could, but it was nothing compared to Ayana’s parents.
When Leesa asked for the doll, I understood then what the true meaning of Christmas was: giving with the heart and appreciating the thought behind the gift. I had bought a doll for Leesa too, and when she opened her present, she was doubly elated. She jumped up and hugged me around the neck and named her doll, Myra, in honor of her mother. She watched as she lovingly played with dolls. She said she would call the other doll, Delores, after my middle name. Ayana, indifferent, still sat sulkily on the sofa.
Have we adults forgotten the true meaning of Christmas? And are we passing on our forgetfulness to our children? Our children are suffering from the commercialization of the Christmas holidays. We adults can change the course our children have taken by teaching them the true meaning of Christmas: spending time with those less fortunate than us. Here are some simple steps to discover the true meaning of Christmas.
1. Donate toys, clothes, appliances, etc. to children in need.
2. Volunteer in a children’s home.
3. Visit a child in a juvenile detention center.
4. Support a family in need for Christmas.
5. Donate to a charity that helps families in need.
6. Invite a colleague who has no family over to your home for Christmas dinner.
7. Spend Christmas with an elderly person.
8. Visit the elderly in nursing homes and nursing homes for Christmas.
9. Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
10. Visit a sick person in the hospital during the Christmas season.
These people tend to be forgotten during the Christmas holidays, the times when they long for family and friends and the love that is shown during these times. Make a special attempt this Christmas to gift someone who is less than you and to teach your children that it is more rewarding to give than to receive, and you will find that the true meaning of Christmas has not been forgotten.
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