One of the things that we try to teach our kids about Christmas (most of the time unsuccessfully) is that it really isn't all about them. As is prevalent in American culture, December (and Christmas in particular) seems to be a time where those who are deemed "less fortunate" garner a lot of publicity. I could go into an entire rant about the other 11 months of the year, but for purposes of this blog, I will try to stay focused on December.
Lots of organizations have, what I have sort of generically started calling, Angel Tree Gifts. If memory serves, I do believe that Prison Fellowship was the first to start such a ministry. Salvation Army has their version, and there seems to be an ever-growing abundance of these ministries every year. Our church does one locally as part of our LEAF (Learning English Among Friends) program.
The LEAF program is run through our local church and is one of the things that I love most about my church. Basically, the ministry exists to teach immigrants (or anyone, really) the English language. There are several hundred folks that come every week to our church campus with the expressed intent to learn English. These families are frequently recent immigrants, coming from war-torn and impoverished countries around the world with the simple desire to find a better life for themselves and their family. They are of every race, religion, and nationality imaginable!
With these families, as you can imagine, comes an abundance of bright-eyed and energetic little children. Assimilating into American society, I can only assume, is overwhelming for most of these folks. At Christmas, while these hard-working, wonderful people are just trying to put food on table and shelter over their kids' heads, their kids are attending local public schools and being inundated with the American ways of Christmas. Stepping outside of my upbringing, I can only imagine the stress and frustration that this must cause many of these parents. Christmas presents are simply a luxury that they may not be able to afford in this new-found land of theirs.
So, our LEAF ministry does Angel Tree gifts for all of these kids every year. They print out a card with the name, age, and gender of each kid and then members of our church "adopt" these kids for the purpose of providing them with at least one gift at Christmas from a church that loves them. My kids get giddy when they see the little pink and blue cards being set up every year. This year, I didn't even know they were there until the kids dragged me over to pick out their cards.
Every year, both of my kids get to pick out a child their same age and gender to buy a gift for. They shop for the gift, wrap it, and then we deliver it back to the church for the LEAF ministry to distribute. My kids LOVE it! They spend more time picking out that gift than any other gift that they give. We all go as a family. It has added so much more meaning to the "giving" aspect of Christmas for us.
So, there you have it: Christmas tradition numero dos for the Anderson Clan!