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?

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