Recognize that “things” are not the most important thing…


It’s that time of year — we’ve got gifts and giving on the brain!

Of course, the winter holidays aren’t just gift-giving occasions. Some of us celebrate religious holidays or festivals at this time of year. Others observe winter holidays from a secular perspective and value them not as excuses to shop but as days to celebrate values like family, community and friendship.

If you’re like many parents, you want the holiday season to be about more than toys and treats, especially if you feel like your children have enough — or too much! — already. We know some parents who subscribe to a “one in, one out” philosophy, teaching their children that for each new toy they receive for a birthday or holiday, they donate one old toy to charity. Other families follow a guideline for gift giving that’s gained popularity in recent years: Rather than a mountain of presents at birthdays and holidays, they give each child something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

That’s not to say we don’t like to give and receive gifts. Who doesn’t love to watch their child’s face light up when they receive something special? Sometimes, though, it’s nice to have a little inspiration to find a gift more meaningful than the next Rainbow Loom or “Frozen” sing-along DVD.

This essay from the New York Times struck a chord with us this December. In it, economist Arthur C. Brooks talks about the idea of “abundance without attachment” — the idea that material prosperity isn’t a bad thing, as long as we recognize that “things” are not the most important thing.

“In other words,” Brooks writes, “if we are lucky enough to achieve abundance, we should be thankful for it and work to share the means to create it with others around the world.”

One of Brooks’ suggestions is to “collect experiences, not things.” That’s why we enjoyed this list of 25 gifts for kids that have nothing to do with toys. While some of the suggestions are more traditional alternatives to dolls and toys (art supplies, photo books, science kits), many of the ideas in the list are experiences — things you can give your kids that will stay with them as wonderful memories long after they’ve outgrown all their toys.

(As we read through the list, we realized why we liked it so much: Many of the experiences on the list are things we love to do at camp! Game nights and movie outings? Check. Favorite foods and impromptu parties? Double check. Lessons, classes, excursions and trips? Triple check!)

We’ve blogged in the past about the gift you give your daughter when you send her to camp. There are other experiences that can be gifts, too — to your family and to others. During the summer, our campers get excited about supporting programs like Project Morry, one of the nonprofits — along with S.C.O.P.E. — that we’re proud LBMC is able to help provide summer camp experiences to kids who might not otherwise be able to afford them. We’re always excited when we see our campers embracing the giving spirit year-round, whether they’re raising funds for programs like SCOPE or Project Morry or giving back to their communities in other ways.

This year, think about holiday gifts through the lens of “abundance without attachment” by finding a giving experience you and your children can enjoy together! It could be as easy as spending an afternoon lending a hand at your local food pantry, helping out at an animal shelter or putting together a basket for a needy family. The experience of helping others is a gift twice over — once in the giving itself, and again in the gift of caring you’re giving your children.

How does your family find new ways to give — and appreciate abundance — during the holiday season?

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content.  What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?


169.97 exact miles away is my home away from home. Lake Bryn Mawr Camp requires no stress, sadness or problems. Camp will always be the best friend I never had that is there for me and supports every decision I make. Being a camper signifies more than just playing sports and making new friends. It only took me seven summers to fully understand what it genuinely means to be content. For many summers I was trying to fit in and experience new opportunities but little did I know I was maturing and becoming the person I am today.

It came sudden. It came fast. I was laying down at Wembley, the soccer fields. After I went on a long run, I watched the clouds roll by as I caught myself smiling for no reason. That’s when I knew… this is the place I belong. There was beauty surrounding me with my best friends, environment and even the taste of the mac and cheese on Thursday nights. Camp had all the necessities to reach nirvana and after realizing this, I promised myself that camp would hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life.

Spending time away from my parents is extremely difficult but after many summers coping with this, I developed a bond with my summer parents who watch over me and teach me lessons even my own birth parents cannot. They are the two people in the world that treat me like their own child and having a second set of “parents” shows how blessed I truly am. The owners of the camp Dan and Jane check up on me daily and even schedule meetings to just chat. These are the people in my life that bring comfort and joy to make me feel special.

Most teenagers have friends that stab their back and are friends with them for wrong reasons but I am blessed with remarkable camp friends. They show me how to see the positive things in hard situations and to love someone for who they are inside. I met my best friends that I will have eternally and this is only because of bryn mawr. My friends do not care about social class or wealth and still teach me to be patient and empathetic.

Bryn Mawr is located on 25 acres of beautiful green forest, which shows the earths true beauty. At home, we cut trees down for shops and factories but here is where I can smell the earth and feel like I am apart of something. All of the colors come together to form the beauty in life that others do not see. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and Bryn Mawr is beautiful in every way possible.

The saying, “money can’t buy you happiness,” may be true but if it were not for camp I would not experience the happiness I have today. Lake Bryn Mawr camp has brought complete happiness to my life and will always share an important place in my heart. Lake Bryn Mawr Camp is where I belong and the reason I am smiling today.

Allie Gross