I want to raise givers. I want to be a giver. The saying that it is better to give than receive is so very true. Sure it is fun to get a gift or a special surprise – it is tons of fun – but there is a deeper more sustaining joy that comes with giving. Giving makes a happy heart. I’ve learned that. I’m still learning that. I want my kids to experience the kind of consuming joy that is so much deeper than the happiness of receiving.
We’ve told the kids the story of the ‘real’ St. Nicholas in the past. This year a friend gave us The Story of St. Nicholas by Cheryl Odden.
This week Chris met the kids and I at Walmart after school. Our church is one of the host sites for Toys for Tots and we were armed with a list of some of the biggest toys needs. There were needs for boys ages 3-5, boys 6-9 and girls 6-9. I told each of the boys they could pick out x-number of gifts for another boy their age. I wanted them to have fun, to be excited to give, to enjoy the adventure of it all.
There was the part of me that was thrilled to be given much so that along side my kids I could give much. Then there is the part of me that gets tense and high strung when going into a store with all four kids. My kids are well behaved for the most part, but I worry way too much about what others think when they see me out with all four. I’m hyper sensitive to every look or expression of strangers. I worry more about what those around me are thinking than what my kids are thinking. I want to change that. I am working to change that.
The boys were so excited. Their voices were a bit louder than normal. They would pick up a toy and then set it down to look at another. They wanted to dart from aisle to aisle in search of the perfect gifts for boys that may only receive one present this Christmas. A few times they were in the center of the aisle and didn’t move out a stranger’s way quite fast enough. My thoughts were on the strangers. Harsh judgement and grumpy looks are easy to find in big stores this time of year. I didn’t want our family outing to be an annoyance or bothersome to other shoppers. I focused on the list on my iphone and getting the job done. Please just pick the toys and put them in the basket. We don’t have to study every toy on every aisle. Just pick something. Move over. Not so loud. Walk, no running.
Basically, I wanted to contain all their excitement and just get the job done. In the twenty minutes we were there, all 4 kids had to go to the bathroom. When we checked out, I looked at Chris and told him, “Next year I am just doing this by myself.”
We got to the church. Completely stressed and frazzled, I wanted to just unload it myself and go home. Each of the kids wanted to help unload and carry bags inside. They laughed. They ran, They carried bags bigger than they are….they relished the act of giving. My thoughts were on the spectacle we were at Walmart.
The next morning, I read Ann Voskamp’s words, “Only self can kill joy. I’m the one doing this to me.”
I wanted my kids to experience the joy of giving, but I was so blinded by concern about what others thought of my family…I robbed myself of joy.
Instead of relishing and etching the memory of their joy filled faces in my mind, I chose to focus on the grumpy faces of strangers.
Instead of being in a life changing moment with my kids, I was wanting to change the moment.
Instead of delighting in a shopping spree of fun, I couldn’t get to the check out line fast enough.
I did it to myself.
My kids taught me the unabashed excitement of giving. Instead of just picking a gift and being done with it, they showed me the delight in choosing the best gift even if it means picking up and setting down 20 others first. They showed me a truly happy heart in giving delights in the process as much as the gift….and doesn’t care if everyone else thinks their zeal and delight in giving is annoying. My kids got it this week. And they taught me in the process.