Catholics Do What?,  Parenting

We give what we get

There’s something deliciously satisfying about the anticipation inherent in the Advent season.

Even as a little kid, largely ignorant of the mechanics and meanings of the liturgical seasons, I loved Guadete Sunday. Seeing that little pink candle aflame meant we could begin the Christmas countdown in earnest. Now that I have little people of my own running around, we’re trying to instill that same sense of anticipation and “now-but-not-yet-ness” as we celebrate the season.

One particularly tangible way we Advent, the verb, in our house, is by participating in our parish’s Adopt-a-Family program. Our parish has binders full of eligible families from a diocesan-wide program, and each year we choose a family equal in size to our own and sponsor their Christmas, essentially.

In past years we’ve made a family affair of taking their list of ages, sizes, and gift wishes to Target with a pile of children in the cart to “help” shop, though this year the baby and I hit the stores late one night on a solo mission. Same end, much less traumatic effort.

But! We do try to let the boys (ages 4 and 2.5) help with the wrapping and the drop off. We explain to them that because we’ve been entrusted with a certain amount of material wealth by God, we’re expected to share it with our neighbors who are in need. Our rule of thumb is that whatever we budget to spend for our own family’s Christmas, we commit to spending on our adopted family, too.

So far our kids are small, and their wants are, too, for the most part (life sized Lightening McQueens notwithstanding.) It’s more than reasonable to budget x-amount for their Christmas gifts and to spend an equal amount on the other family. As they get older and, God willing, more numerous,  I can see how the 1:1 ratio is going to stretch us. My hope is that in the coming years, it also limits our spending on our own family in a palpable way.

As crazy as it sounds, I want to have to say no to them, (and to myself as my finger hovers over that 1-click button) because if we go over budget for ourselves, that could affect our capacity to be generous with our sponsored family.

I want us all to learn to to give until it hurts. And I want the anticipation of Christmas morning to be tinged with the joy of making a sincere gift of self to someone else.

I want our kids to feel that – I want them to fall in love with generosity.

There’s nothing set in stone that we will always operate this way. But 5 years in, it’s definitely starting to feel like a tradition. I hope it’s one we can continue to grow into, and that in turn, it grows our hearts.

Meanwhile, I’ll be looking for that pink candle come Sunday, and trying mightily to resist the urge to turn my radio dial to the 24/7 Christmas station…at least for another week.

P.s. this is a Krampus. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, and he might be hiding under your bed. Be very afraid.


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