I struggle with stuff. I get overwhelmed at birthdays and Christmas because I worry my kids are going to miss what’s important. I talk a lot about sharing and I try to live my life in a way that demonstrates generosity.
We live a blessed life. We go on trips. My kids have plenty of toys and games and craft supplies. We don’t have much debt and what we have we’re paying down. I worry how as parents we’ll combat the greediness in our culture.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I love giving gifts. To my kids. To my husband. To our relatives. To our friends. To strangers. It’s one of the ways I show love. But I don’t want excessive amounts of gifts to drown out what’s important.
Birthdays are about celebrating life. I want to rejoice over the life of my kids, who we adopted as newborns. Their birth moms chose life for them. That is worth celebrating each year and each day, really. There is joy in unwrapping a gift that someone chose just for you. I get that. And I want that for my kids.
But I don’t want stuff to drown out compassion for others who don’t live the kind of life we have. Kids don’t choose the circumstances into which they’re born.
I know there are mommas in other places, probably closer than I realize, who spend time thinking about how their kids will have enough. I can’t imagine wondering if my son will be educated and medicated in ways that will help preserve their future. To wonder if my child will ever break out of poverty is foreign to me. I know there are mommas who are scared their daughter may not have enough food.
When Ben turned 3 in November, we celebrated the life of Jean in Ecuador. He’s one of the Compassion International kids we sponsor and share’s my boy’s birthday. The kids at my son’s party made Jean birthday cards and donated money for us to send to him. We asked for the donations instead of gifts. Of course, some people still brought gifts. But they chose to bless Jean while celebrating Ben.
We recently received a letter from Jean. He thanked us for the money we sent and told us what he bought: two pieces of cloth to make a school uniform, a backpack, a pair of shoes, a ball, and two pairs of sandals for his sister. Y’all. Seriously. My kid got dinosaurs and superheros and Jean bought himself clothes and shoes for his little sister.
This is why I spend time thinking about stuff. I can’t imagine Jean’s momma wondering how she was going to buy her 11-year-old boy school clothes. But I can imagine how proud she was her boy wanted to share his birthday money with his sister, who needed shoes.
So we did it again when this past weekend at Cate’s birthday party. My girl turned 6 and was willing to ask friends to bring donations for Roselyn, our Compassion girl in Guatemala who turned 6 about six months ago. Yes, this meant she got fewer gifts, but, let me tell you, my girl was blessed with some new horse toys, a cute cowgirl outfit, new crafts, and other goodies. She unwrapped joy.
But we also collected $147.54 for Roselyn and her family. The girls at the party colored pictures and made her cards. One sweet friend brought a Zip-loc bag full of change, the money she usually uses to buy stickers to send to her Compassion friend. I get the feeling Roselyn will unwrap joy when the stack of colors and blessings arrives at her house.
That’s paying it forward. That’s celebrating life. And that’s compassion at its finest.
Tuesdays are God-sized Dream days around here and I’m linking this post along with many, many other dreamers on Holley Gerth’s blog. This week’s prompt was: Find a way to pay it forward. You’ve been encouraged in your God-sized dreams by your sisters here the last few months. How can you spread that encouragement forward by investing in other dreamers? Every momma is a dreamer when it comes to her child no matter where they live.
I’m also linking up with Compassion Bloggers, who are joining together to be a voice for mothers. Please let me know if you want to know more about sponsoring a child. You can also help mommas and their babies by making a one-time donations or providing on-going support of Compassion’s Child Survival Program.
And on Wednesday, I decided to link up this post with Jennifer Dukes Lee and other storytellers as part of the weekly #TellHisStory. This is one of the big stories in our lives right now and one that remains on my heart in what has been a busy week.
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This is amazing. My husband and I have talked a bit about what to do for our daughter on birthdays…we don't necessarily want the huge, tons-of-gifts party every year. We want to celebrate her life and let her know she is loved and valued…but we also want her to understand compassion and giving, too. I love this idea. We have a Compassion child in Indonesia, and I would love to do something like this for him and his family. Thanks for sharing!
Terri Siebert says
This is so awesome what you are doing with your kids, what a great way to celebrate a birthday!
Thanks, Terri. I was glad to find your blog today.
Thanks, Mel. You know – the parties are still really fun even with this element of giving incorporated.
I love this idea. When my kids were younger we always took the first week in December to clean out their clothes and toys to give to the local mission then as they got older they decided that the used toys was not enough we need to also get some new ones to give. Kids really do have the heart to give if you will just encourage them like you are doing of your. Thanks for training the next generation to do the right thing.
Hannah Guillory says
Some great thoughts here! We are just a little over two years into the parenting journey ourselves, so I'm going to keep some of these ideas in mind! 🙂 Thanks for sharing and thanks for partnering with Compassion!
I live in South Africa and we have one of the highest HIV/Aids death rates in the world. Consequently we have many, many, many orphans or families where a ten year old is the head of the home caring for his younger siblings. There are so much need around us that one has to have a heart of stone if one doesn't share with those in need.
Blessings and love from Jennifer's.
Kim Hall says
What sweet, sweet lessons for your children. They do learn what they live, and they are learning about the really important things in life from you!
Thanks, Kim! They're always watching, aren't they? 🙂