I love this time of year. I am blasting holiday tunes in my car, festive lights are twinkling and my favorite side dishes are about to become a staple in my house again. Yum! This time of year marks the beginning of my deep dive into holiday movies both old and new. My news feed is a flood with awesome gift guides. And I have tissues on standby for the randomly heartwarming holiday commercials that get me every time. But there is a grinchy underbelly to the attention and expectation of this season.
So much of the season is focused on the gifts. We are encouraged to give of our time and money to worthy causes. We search tirelessly for the best deals on the latest and greatest gifts for our kids, their teachers, friends and family. Our calendars explode with holiday parties, not-to-miss events and special services. It is the season of giving. But when our heart for giving turns into a seemingly endless to-do list, the joy of giving can be lost in translation. Here are my tips for how to cultivate joy in giving both for yourself and your little ones.
Follow your children’s example. I firmly believe children are innately able to access joy in giving. One day, as we were walking out of the grocery store, my son and niece noticed a toy-drive bin set out for the holidays. At the time, they were a baby and a barely toddler. The toys they had longed for and worked so hard for during our grocery trip were both cheerfully thrown into the toy bin. The woman at the booth tried to hand the toys back but both kept tossing them back in the bin. When I explained to my niece that those would go to other children who needed toys, and they would never see them again, she took off her coat and tossed it in as well. She loved that coat. I was humbled, and I learned that day that sometimes the best thing we can do to cultivate a spirit of giving is to simply get out of their way.
Stop thinking about the what first. Start by thinking about the who and the why. When I sit down to write my own gift list, I make sure to include three columns: Who, What, and Why. “Who is it for?,” and “Why am I giving it?” are important questions to ask. It may seem like a silly idea, but I cannot tell you how often our “what” changes because of taking the time to focus on the person we are gifting. You can download my intentional gifting list template here.
Don’t give a should about what everyone else is doing. There are so many shoulds that pop up around the holidays. You should give to this charity not that one. You should go to the office parties, the friends parties, the church events, the benefits. Try to eliminate the word should from your vocabulary when planning your gifting and your schedule this holiday season. Any time you hear a should in your head, simply change that should to a “can.” Can is an opportunity; should is a set-up and a joy sucker.
Just because you “can” do it all, doesn’t mean you can do it all right now. One of my favorite coaches at Orangetheory Fitness always reminds us that we have at least 20% more left in our energy tank than we think we do at the end of our workout. It is so easy to look at all the deals we may miss, all the benefits we can’t make, and all the events we can’t attend and be discouraged. That can lead us to forget to pay attention to our own needs and overextend. I have learned this year that in exercise and in life, it is all about knowing your limits and pacing yourself. The same is true about our giving. Sometimes our energy level, physical ability or financial limits seem insufficient. Just because we cannot do it all right now, doesn’t mean we won’t be able to in the future. If you discover you cannot do everything you want to do right now, double check your why, and if you really want to make it happen, chart yourself a course to get there.
Focus on giving all year long. Did you know many food banks experience an overstock of perishable food items this time of year? They burst at the seems with volunteers this month. However, the rest of the year they experience shortages. Take time this holiday season to explore charities and organizations you would like to give to throughout the entire year. Spread the love across all 12 months. You will find that you are able to give more, and you will experience that joy all year long!