I always want to incorporate service into our Christmas season--especially with my children. Both now and throughout the year we have lots of service opportunities that we hear about through our church. But the majority of the time, my children are too young to come.
This year my daughter's preschool had a food drive before Thanksgiving. I took her to the store with a list of items they were collecting and had her pick some stuff out and then we dropped it in the bin at the school. I'm glad we did it. But I don't think she ever quite got what we were doing. Thankfully, she can't imagine not having enough food to eat. So it confused her that we would give boring old cans of food to other people. (Giving away treats and baked goods she understands.)
A member of my church works at a nonprofit that had a huge toy drive for children in need throughout the area. I didn't hear about the donating toys part, but then they needed help wrapping the toys. I took my four year old with me last night to wrap presents.
She manned the tape dispenser while I wrapped. She gave me pieces of tape two or three times longer than I ever needed. She also got to eat cookies and chips. I don't think she quite got what we were doing at first.
The donations were so generous that all the kids on the list were getting two toys from the drive this year. When I told her we needed to wrap another toy for the same kid, she was impressed. I told her that she was very blessed because she was going to get more than two presents this year. She stood up and exclaimed for all to hear, "Yeah! I'm going to get tons of presents!"
As time went on, I think she understood that we were doing this for other people. She would run out to choose another pile of gifts to wrap (usually choosing the princess themed stuff, but also some Buzz Lightyear toys). And then she would ask about the child is was going to. Was it a boy or a girl? How old were they? Do you think they'd like the gift?
My friend commented that she was impressed that even though my daughter was excited by many of the toys she saw, she never asked for any of them.
On the drive home, we took some detours through the neighborhood to check out Christmas lights. I told her that what we had just done was service--doing something for other people without expecting anything in return. She did learn that doing service gives you a good feeling inside. And sometimes, there's cookies.