Giving can be the greatest reward

Published 10:25am Thursday, December 12, 2013

As Christmas approaches, we’re in the season of Letters to Santa, that beloved holiday feature depended upon by newspaper types when our usual news sources are out of the office.

I picked up my first batch from the elementary school Tuesday morning, and have been enjoying the seasonal dose of adorable ever since. The usual mix applies, with some wanting every shiny bauble TV has piped into their brains and others content to ask Santa Claus for a baby doll or a book.

This year’s leading heartbreaker so far is one little girl who said “I just want my dog Rosie to come home.”

But among all the desire for stuff, children should be reminded early that Christmas is also a season of giving. While there are always more needs in our communities that most of us can comprehend, the opportunities to lend a hand seem more visible over the holidays.

At Christmas time, the jingling bell and bright red kettle invite little ones to let go of that shiny quarter to help someone less fortunate than themselves. There are canned good and toy drives by local schools, churches and community groups.

When the children see the giant pile of goodies collected for the needy, they might get a case of the “gimme-gimme’s,” as my family refers to it. That’s a good moment to point out that some kids out there might not wake up to something under the tree, that without the generosity of those who have enough to spare, Christmas morning might feel like just another day.

The United States is far and away the world’s most generous nation, giving more to a variety of charities than other countries. But that happens one generation at a time.

Only by getting our children in the habit of helping others can we make sure that Americans of the future are as generous and charitable as the ones who have gone before.

It always happens eventually, as I’m translating and typing the little ones’ letters to Santa, that some shining little voice will wish for a good Christmas for their relative or friend in less fortunate circumstances. Those are the voices that will keep America great.

And I write this as much for myself as anyone else.

Too often this time of year, I find myself stressing out over what Big Something I can get for my children, what Santa can bring to create that sparkle in their eyes that is every parent’s greatest rush.

But last year’s Big Something has been long forgotten, and this year’s wow factor will fade just as surely. So in the hustle of the holidays, I’ll endeavor to impress on my children that giving can be Christmas’s greatest reward.


David D. Goodwin writes a weekly column for The Wetumpka Herald.

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