Yesterday I gave away some scratch-off lottery tickets to strangers. I gave some to the guys working at the post office – and let me tell you – the joy that five dollars can bring is pretty amazing.
I decided to add a few scratch-off lottery tickets to some of my holiday cards this year (I am not a gambler, but some of our friends and family love these scratch-offs – plus, you “gotta be in it to win it” baby).
The reason I am sharing this here is to encourage you to maybe do something little for someone in the next couple of days. Maybe you already have, but if you have not – I double dog dare you to buy something for under five dollars to specifically give to a stranger.
Too often we forget or miss the little joys that can ripple into someone’s day!
Sometimes a bunch of negative assaults or chronic burnout can be buffered when we share kindness – like I experienced with mere dollar scratch-off lottery tickets yesterday! Also, last Friday I gave away a bag of clementines to some workers who were heavy spirited. I walked back in and said, “Here you go -this is for you and the staff – happy holidays…” and the guy LIT up. We were on our way home from grocery shopping and I had a huge bag of healthy fruit – and decided to share – and that was under five dollars!
I am not saying you have to be in a jovial mood all the time -no way! But I am saying to be intentional about giving “sometimes” – And when I stopped at 7-11 to buy scratch-offs – I purposefully bought a few extra so I could give some away. I originally was thinking of the postal clerks, but I also gave one to this guy who was counting dimes to pay for something at 7-11. Then… the Pepsi delivery guy saw it and said something about it – so I insisted he take one too – and we shared a smile.
But the real special lottery ticket share was with this lady (from New Jersey) who was at the Mechanicsville post office table – stuffing a box for her daughter. I was at the counter with her putting the lottery tickets into my holiday cards – the ons that also had the tea.
I asked the lady if she wanted a lottery ticket to put in her box. She looked at me somber-like and muttered, “Huh…” I showed her my stash, offered again, she smiled – took one… the whole atmosphere changed!
Honestly, this lady’s joy meter went way up. An onlooker saw her taping it into a card and added, “Don’t forget to write all winnings are shared 50/50.” – and they laughed a bit.
So basically it cost me five dollars to add a little bit of unique joy into the world.
Now I hate sharing about our giving. I am a little uncomfortable with the post showing the plates of Xmas goodies we gave away over the years- but I really felt led to share that because maybe just one or two folks needed that idea! And that is how we cultivate creativity – by sharing ideas…
Sometimes humans can get puffed up from and prideful with their giving – because let’s face it – there is some power in being the giver. And the Bible even talks about folks who bragged about their lavish giving — the Pharisees — and how they gave for status and how pride tainted their gifts because their giving was from a dark and ugly heart…
But there is a side to giving that is so joyful! And I know, I know – most of us have budgets – but that’s where a little faith comes in…
Anyhow, the main reason for this post – is just to get you thinking about your response to gifts.
Sometimes people feel shame when they cannot give large gifts at Christmas – or they feel anger when the grandparents are not forking over big enough gifts (ha!). Or they never think about overdoing it all the time and how that may be hurting their kids in the long run.
I have seen mixed tensions with parents of young kids the most – you know – they want to give the kids a magical feel and want Christmas to be “awesome” – but “awesome” does not always have to mean expensive gifts.
Many folks seem to have balance – but for some of us- it takes some thinking and adjusting.
But hear me on this – Spoiled kids can be brutal to deal with. Spoiling your kids can leave them needing much!
However, sometimes a light spoiling on our kids can just be fun – sometimes a little spoiling can bless them in their soul!! One year we bought really high ticket items for our boys – we might not ever do it again, but for that year- we all just needed huge gifts – maybe the parents needed it even more than the nippers. Seems silly now, but it was where we were and it was needed….
So let me ask – What do you want to give your kids – a fleeting magical Christmas? – or contentment as an individual? Well I think we want both! ha! And so that is why it takes ASSESSING and thinking about what you need this year and then seeing what is doable and realistic. And while you are doing that – be sure to think of an under five dollar gift that you can maybe give to a stranger…
~~~ Tips For Parents:
1, Teach kids to think of others at this time too. Serve at the food kitchen, make lunches for the guys who are working on the house down the street, give a note/snack to the mail carrier, give goodies to those who are “not” needy, or give some dollars to those who are on the corner with a sign. Who cares if you are told they go and waste it – the smiles I have exchanged with those folks is a gift to me! – but if this bothers you – go and get them some dollar menu items.
2. Help kids to see beyond the now. “Maybe this Christmas we could not get all the sets of Legos — but your b-day is coming and I will get you another hundred dollar set then…” or if they got everything everyone wanted – still find time to build into their character….
3. Help kids to see the reality of living within your means. I have seen it again and again, folks going into debt because they want a magical Christmas – and while the kids may have had fun, the January reality sucks more. So maybe it is time to rethink about what gives longer lasting benefits! Here is a hypo: “Just so you know, I really wanted to buy you the expensive pink leather jacket too, but I decided to not charge it – especially because it might go on sale in a few weeks. So how about if we go jacket shopping later – and here is an extra twenty dollars you can put towards a different jacket in the meantime.” That right there talks about not charging and being conscious of wise spending – it throws them a money perk so they have a little joy from that – and it also helps teach delayed gratification (which can lead to enjoying stuff more). Or if it was a year that you splurged on jumbo gifts – discuss with them how that financial decision was made (to splurge on a big gift). “Enjoy your motorcycle this year, but know that it is not the usual price range of Xmas gifts we’ll get, but I really wanted to splurge this year just because…- so enjoy!”
4. If this is a tight budget Christmas – don’t feel bad about that – put your energy into finding new ways to celebrate besides expensive gifts. (Make a funky meal together – start a tradition of tacky light seeing – talk about the gifts you wanted to gift them – talk about what really satisfies – tell stories – make ornaments – splurge on something that brightens everyone day)
5. Help kids to see what you experience as an adult. Discuss and talk openly about how you have modified your expectations or maybe how you have new goals for handling money- or how the lack of enough moola has very real limits but here is how we are coping – keep it age appropriate – but when the spending of money is talked about openly – it has much value! It can shape and get kids thinking about their thinking and spending (because it is connected- thinking and spending is so connected)- and the discussion is really a great gift to them.
One of our best discussions came from a terrible incident we witnessed one year. One of my son’s friends saw a large package waiting for him from his grandparents. . His grandparents were very wealthy and now lived in the jumbo house around the Lake Anna. We were at his house a couple days before Xmas and we all the jumbo box – He looked at with a beam in his eye and smirky smile. It turned out to be a bean bag. A large styro filled bean bag. We heard that this boy had a small meltdown…. and we could see why – what a tease! As a family we talked about this later and our kids were young, but we talked about it from a variety of angles. My point with that story is that sometimes it can be just a huge blessing to give a kid an amazing gift – and I think the grandparents missed out that year – or set the kid up for a let down! But not every year needs to spoil – come on – because entitlement settles in – expectations escalate – and the truth is that “expensive stuff” is not what fills a kid’s soul. And that is why we set limits after our “large gift” year. We just wanted our kids to see objectively at Xmas – and this kind of discussion needs to happen at a young age.
6. If you want kids that can balance their contentment and cope with ups and downs of life as an adult, you have to discuss things while they are growing up. Hard times can be a very good thing for developing empathy, appreciation, and balance. The kid years shape and mold what will become a long adulthood – so be intentional about your role in their shaping. It starts with us – and we improve and learn as we go – and they should see that part of it too. And the value of “talk therapy” is overlooked – hard days will come and go – and talking through the seasons can soften some of the blow…
7. Discuss giving and talk about how some people were just never taught the value of sharing (and how some folks just do not have the “love language” of giving – and so to not take it personal if someone does not share – many times it is not out of greed – and it is nothing personal).
8. Keep growing as an adult. What kind of gifts do you think you need compared to what you really need.
9. Love your kids – tell them you love – show them you love them – and make time to be with them and love them with your physical presence. Be their advocate- because even if you are not perfect – they will always remember how much you love them – it will go into adulthood with them in ways that anchor.
10. Make this holiday a holiday that has depth – find one new thing you can share that goes beyond consumerism.
This is linked to Kan’s Joy is…. challenge week 22.
Have a great day and Happy Holidays to all!