Are you one of those people who turns on Christmas music before Thanksgiving? Do you get secretly excited when Christmas decorations come out before Halloween at Hobby Lobby? During the Christmas season, it is not just about the music and fun decorations, but also the spirit of giving, goodwill and togetherness. Our world has suffered a lot in recent months, and it is safe to say we all yearn for a time when troubles can be forgotten and we can celebrate something bigger than us. Unfortunately, during Christmastime, our society often becomes so entranced with by the latest tangible, material things we “need” and “want,” that sometimes it is easy to get lost in the to-do lists and become far removed from the giving spirit of the season.
There is nothing like seeing the magic of Christmas shining bright in a child’s eyes as they take it all in. The holiday season is a prime time to help kids understand the value in giving, serving others and instilling a spirit of selflessness.
Alongside her husband, Luc, Kristine Ashley works as a Fuse Student Minister at Frisco’s Genesis Metro Church. Ms. Ashley agrees that the holiday season is an opportune time to help kids understand the importance of giving to those less fortunate and serving those who might need more help than others. “I think it is about allowing kids the opportunity to give, which means truly walking them through the ‘why’ and ‘how.’ So often, we are in such a hurry to get things done, we can miss showing our kids how to give,” Ms. Ashley says. “When you serve something greater than yourself, it gives you purpose and fulfills you, especially during Christmastime.”
During a time of year when getting “things” are the focus of most kids’ attention, serving others, volunteering time and giving back allows them to step outside of themselves and realize how much giving to others boosts their morale, confidence and self worth. Ms. Ashley believes people, kids especially, want to be bigger than themselves, which in turn drives their desire to help and be a part of something. “When you feel you have made a difference or you have supported someone without getting anything in return, in a funny way, it makes your heart grow! When you think about what Christ did for us on the cross and that He gave all of Himself for us, it is overwhelming and humbling. When you attend Christmas programs and parties and when people, hopefully, are a bit more kind, those things are contagious. It is because what you are doing is giving — giving your time, presence, gifts and love. When we focus on something bigger than ourselves, the spirit of Christmas comes alive.”
In teaching kids the value of giving rather than receiving, it is important to offer real life examples in which they can give, whether it is of their time, gifts, love or support. Parents might consider teaching kids the value of tithing at church, volunteering at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, spending one’s own money on gifts for someone else, collecting and donating items, spending time with those who might not have anyone or hanging out at the local animal shelter with animals waiting to be adopted!
Nicole Bursey, the executive director of Frisco Family Services, leads and serves the community with a dedicated team that works to ensure individuals and families in need or crisis in our community have the support they need to move beyond their crisis to a place of stability. The holiday season can be an especially trying time for these families.
Ms. Bursey explains, “The individuals and families we serve are going through so much. Some are dealing with supporting a spouse or child going through difficult illnesses, some are suddenly unemployed and many seniors are living on fixed incomes with unforeseen situations. Our holiday programs remove a bit of the stress families are facing and provide some normalcy.” She continues, “Our holiday gift programs help prevent parents from having to explain to their kids that they will not be able to provide gifts. Gifts and social activities are provided to seniors who are often forgotten during the holidays. Again, this is only possible because of the generosity of our community.”
Frisco Family Services has a number of ways families can help! “Our Little Hands Volunteer Program provides children ages 10 and under the opportunity to serve in an area such as our community garden or holiday stocking stuffing event. During the holiday season, kids get the opportunity to stuff holiday stockings for client kids,” Ms. Bursey says. “Families are invited to stuff stockings onsite or at home with kid-friendly items and drop them off. These stockings are given to children participating in our holiday gift program. Also, we encourage kids to host food drives throughout the year, providing a great opportunity for parents to talk with kids about hunger. These opportunities teach children the importance of giving back and help families raise charitable children.”
Frisco Family Services also hosts their newest holiday program, the Silverbells Holiday Social and Celebration. In its third year, the program provides seniors who are 65 years and older with breakfast at a nice restaurant or community venue, gifts from their personal wish list and the opportunity to meet other seniors. “This program deeply touches my heart because I have a grandmother in her eighties who is a widow. She does not get around as easily as she used to and has times of loneliness. Serving seniors like her was the inspiration for this program. We want seniors in our community to know they are not forgotten, but rather valued,” Ms. Bursey shares.
Families can sponsor a child, teen, parent or senior by purchasing a new gift, making a financial contribution in support of the program or by providing new clothes and new toys for children of all ages or gifts for teens, parents and seniors. Families can fill a stocking with goodies, host a holiday drive for specific items, donate wrapping materials or even volunteer to help with set up during the week-long Holiday Store Program.
The holiday season provides an opportunity to teach benevolence and compassion. Many Frisco ISD schools provide the opportunity to give during the holiday season through donations to programs such as the Small World Angel Program. With Love It’s a Small World is an organization dedicated to helping families with school-aged children. Students can adopt an angel to buy gifts for. Brenda Elmore, a Lone Star High School counselor, coordinates the program yearly on her campus. She has great pride in how students come together to help others. “Each year, our teachers, students, teams, clubs and organizations do a great job adopting angels and fulfilling their needs and wants. My favorite day is the day all the gifts are due and we have large bags of items to load into the trucks. It is a true testament to the reason for the season and a wonderful lesson on giving rather than receiving. You can tell our kids really enjoy being able to say they helped.”
They also collect donations for other worthy causes and share their talents through musical performances at locations and events around the community, such as Stonebriar Centre, senior living facilities, the City of Frisco’s Merry Main Street celebration and more. Art students and graphic design classes have made cards and placemats to spread holiday cheer at nursing homes and homeless shelters. The activities and organizations supported vary by campus and year. FISD believes it is important for students to engage in activities that develop character, instill generosity and help students grow into well-rounded adults who value the importance of community. “It feels good to help people who do not always get toys. Giving to them lets me help the less fortunate so they can have stuff like we do. It makes me feel happy to make other people happy during Christmas,” shares Tyler Shirack, a Boals Elementary School student.
The Salvation Army’s Angel tree offers opportunities to sponsor a child’s wish list during the holiday season, as well. The Angel Tree serves millions of children and can be found in shopping malls, churches, companies and various organizations. Participants select an angel’s tag off the tree, purchase gifts on the wish list and deliver them by the deadline. Ms. Ashley shares, “We do an Angel Tree in the church lobby every year. It is filled with tags from families within our own church that need extra support that year. I think students forget, because of the city we live in, that people are still in need. There is something so special about seeing teens and their families shop and put thought and effort into giving gifts to another. It helps students find humility and thankfulness.”
The holiday season allows us all the opportunity to be the change we want to see in the world. The magic of Christmas is something all children should experience, and helping them understand it with a selfless, giving spirit can only ignite the excitement and enchantment of such a wonderful time of year.