Sandra has an Advent tradition with the kids that I love. She calls it “The Giving Tree.” She makes up a Christmas tree out of construction paper and posts it on the wall, then decorates it with paper ornaments on which she writes instructions. Instead of simply asking our boys to donate to charity some of the money they’ve collected from their allowances, each day of Advent she has them take an ornament off the tree. The ornament will instruct them to count a specific thing in our home or lives for which they should feel grateful — something that less fortunate families do not have. Then, the boys are asked to deposit a unit amount of money for each item they counted.
For example, an ornament this year encouraged the boys to be thankful for their mobility. So Sandra had them count all of the stairs in our house and deposit $0.10 for each stair. Another ornament wanted the boys to be thankful for water, so had them count all the faucets in the house and deposit $0.25 for each. Yet another had them deposit a sum for the number of grandparents they have, in order to help them be appreciative for family. The boys raised $32 for charity this way. Just a drop in the bucket of need, perhaps, but a fairly substantial donation given what they have accumulated in their allowances.
Instead of the boys simply donating money from their allowances without really understanding why, and possibly begrudging the donation because of that lack of understanding, they come to understand why it is so important to help others in need, and to be thankful for the things they have. It also gets them excited about the donation because, in a sense, they worked to achieve it.
It’s a wonderful tradition, and I admire Sandra for remaining faithful to it each year.
The Giving Tree tradition reminds me of all the “little graces” in our lives: the items which individually might go unnoticed and never make it into this blog, but which collectively bestow immense benefit on our lives. Today, I am thankful for them.