This month I’d like to share a personal story about “Paying it forward” during the holidays. As you may know, this time of year can be difficult for many people for different reasons, especially when it comes to finances, but I think there are ways to spread love and joy without breaking the bank.
As a child, I remember seeing giving trees prominently displayed in most department stores and often peeked at the tags to see what children and family had requested for presents. I wished I could help but being a child who didn’t make any money, I felt there wasn’t anything I do. However, once I was older and acquired a job, I was able to get tags from the tree and fulfill a couple of holiday wishes for local children. What a great feeling!
When I became a mother, I focused on my own children, as money was very tight, and I so wanted to make their Christmas as magical as possible. It was when they began asking me about the giving trees that I explained to them that Santa just needed a bit of help sometimes to make sure all the little boys and girls got the things they asked for. So, it was then that we began a new Christmas tradition by taking tags off giving trees each year.
Of course, as they got older, we revisited this conversation. I explained to them how sometimes parents had a hard time at Christmas and often couldn’t afford to buy gifts or even the necessities their children so desperately needed. I went on to explain that Christmas wasn’t about the gifts and that the true meaning of Christmas was spending time with family and friends and spreading kindness to everyone. Now that my children understand a bit more, we have started a new tradition. Every year my kids forgo one present and we spend that money to purchase gifts from the giving tree. They usually ask to pick a few tags, so they can help more children.
I was especially happy last year when my kids pooled their money and were able to purchase a bike with a helmet for a little boy. I’ll never forget how excited they were as we wheeled the bike to the tree. My son and daughter were reminiscing about the days when they themselves received bikes for Christmas. They were so excited to ride them that I would let them try them out in the house (due to the snow) Our tradition teaches my kids to look at the holidays from another point of view and while they are asking for more expensive items (as they do when they get older) they are aware that there are other children, in our own community that ask for things they need, such as warm clothing, personal hygiene items, and inexpensive toys.
I work on helping my kids understand that paying it forward isn’t something that just happens during the holidays, it should happen all year long! I am teaching them that a small act of kindness can help make someone’s day a little brighter.
Tell me how your family spreads kindness during the holiday season by emailing me at Creynolds@newdimensionsfcu.com. I’d love to hear from you and until then, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and don’t forget to pay it forward. It feels great and the impact you make will last for years to come.