Every Christmas, I debate over what to get my niece, Ayana. I say this because Ayana is a girl who has been given almost anything she asks for every Christmas. At three years old, her parents bought her a Jeep Barbie. At four they bought her a 25-inch color television. At five they got her a computer for her bedroom, and at six they bought her a cell phone. So you can see when I decided to buy her a doll for her seventh birthday, I was way behind the times. Of course, since I don’t have any children, I have no idea what children want these days. Technology is all the rage, and children are so technologically savvy, the toys that satisfied us as a child are passé.
Ayana entered the room and ran to my Christmas tree, under which lay boxes of small gifts. I usually give two or three “little” gifts so the children feel as if they are getting “a lot.” Ayana opened her gift from me, and when she saw it was a doll, she sighed and said disappointedly, “Another doll!” She promptly laid it on the floor, got up, and plopped on the sofa, sulking. Her next-door neighbor Leesa, who came to my house with Ayana, looked at her and said, “I’ll take it if you don’t want it.” Ayana, still sulking, said, “Go ahead. I don’t want it. I have a ton of dolls.”
Mind you, I was sitting across the room from Ayana, listening to this display of discontent. My feelings were hurt because I believed Ayana was being ungrateful. But when Leesa took the doll and hugged it like it was a long lost sister, I realized that Ayana was only being a child. She was seven for gosh sakes. She was reacting to a situation created by adults, her parents and me, her aunt. Her parents had given her the best, and each year they had to top what they gave her the previous year. So if a child receives a computer on her fifth birthday, a baby doll on her seventh birthday pales in comparison.
Leesa, however, didn’t come from a family of means. Her parents struggled to make ends meet each month. Just a year earlier, her mother died of cancer and left Leesa all alone. Her father tried his best to be a mother and a father to Leesa, but for any little girl who has lost her mother, no one can replace Mommy. Leesa’s father gave Leesa what he could, but that wasn’t anything compared to Ayana’s parents.
When Leesa asked for the doll, I knew then what the true meaning of Christmas was: to give from the heart and to appreciate the thought behind the gift. I had bought a baby doll for Leesa also, and when she opened her own gift, she was doubly elated. She jumped up and hugged my neck and named her doll, Myra, after her mother. I watched as she played lovingly with the dolls. She said she was going to name the other doll, Delores, after my middle name. Ayana, unconcerned, still sat sulking on the sofa.
Have we adults forgotten the true meaning of Christmas? And are we passing our forgetfulness on to our children? Our children are suffering from the commercialization of the Christmas holiday. We adults can change the course our children have taken by teaching them the true meaning of Christmas: spending time with those less fortunate than ourselves. Here are some simple steps to discover the true meaning of Christmas.
1. Donate toys, clothing, appliances, etc., to needy children.
2. Volunteer at a group home for children.
3. Visit a child in a juvenile detention center.
4. Sponsor a needy family for Christmas.
5. Donate to a charity that helps families in need.
6. Invite a coworker who has no family to your house for Christmas dinner.
7. Spend Christmas with an elderly person.
8. Visit the elderly at retirement homes and nursing facilities for Christmas.
9. Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
10. Visit a sick person in the hospital during Christmas.
These people tend to be forgotten during the Christmas holidays, the times when they long for family and friends and the love that is shown during these times. Make a special attempt this Christmas to give to someone who has less than you and to teach your children that it is more rewarding to give than to receive, and you will discover that the true meaning of Christmas has not been forgotten.