No presents for Christmas? Yep. You read the title correctly.
We all know that Christmas isn’t about the presents. And although we are not opposed to giving our kids presents for Christmas, we wanted to give them the opportunity to be the gift givers instead of the receivers. Here’s what happened and how you can do it too.
Find a service opportunity
It all began a couple of months before our vacation to Mazatlan, Mexico over Christmas. It’s a tradition my husband’s family has had for years. I scoured the internet and found the Amistad Familiar Orphanage and Feeding Center. It’s an organization that provides children, who live in the impoverished neighborhoods of Mazatlan, two meals every day and a safe place to play, learn and grow while their parents are working. I thought it would be cool to collect some stuffed animals to give out to the children there.
Of course, you don’t have to go to Mazatlan, Mexico to find service opportunities. A good place to start is JustServe.org. It is is a website where the volunteer needs of organizations may be posted and volunteers may search for places to serve in the community. Another great way is to just start asking around. You’ll be surprised what opportunities are waiting just around the corner.
Involve your kids
Next, we told our kids that instead of getting Christmas presents, we were going to give presents to kids in Mexico. After the initial shock, they seemed surprisingly okay with it. Then we started collecting stuffed animals from friends, family and neighbors. You would be surprised how many stuffed animals people are willing to just give away. We received more than 1,000! The more stuffed animals we received, the more excited my kids got. Since we were driving to Mexico, the tricky part was fitting all of them in our camping trailer.
Enjoy giving out presents together
Finally, two days before Christmas, we loaded our kids and the stuffed animals in the truck and headed to the feeding center in the slums of Mazatlan. We entered the modest building with our four kids to find 60 children patiently waiting for our arrival. There faces were filled with smiles. None of them spoke English and none of us spoke Spanish but nothing needed to be said. It was an experience never to be forgotten.
Although my kids kept asking to keep the stuffed animals for themselves once we arrived at the feeding center, they couldn’t hand them out fast enough. They wanted to keep giving them away.
Do something small and see huge results
The director of the feeding center spoke to all of the children as well. Since this is a Christian, non-profit organization, she said, “This family doesn’t know any of you, but God knows you and He sent them here for YOU.” We were all amazed how a small toy could make a child so happy.
As we drove home that evening after giving out all the stuffed animals, my 7-year-old son said, “That was the best part of our trip. Can we do it again?” We all felt it. It was the feeling a doing something kind for something else and asking for nothing in return.
The remaining stuffed animals that we brought provided Christmas presents for about 400 children in Mazatlan at about 10 different feeding centers. It was definitely a very rewarding experience. But the best part of all was that on Christmas morning, our kids didn’t ask for any presents.
Although I don’t expect to have a present-free Christmas every year, it was an amazing experience that my children will never forget. So, when your kids give you their wish list this year and it’s longer that your Christmas tree, maybe you should consider giving Christmas presents a break for a year and see what happens. You might be surprised with the results. I know we were.