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The Privilege of Giving

By Shelley Noonan
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #91, 2009.

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Shelley Noonan


If you’re like me, the weeks preceding Christmas are spent searching for the perfect gift to bring your children delight. Often, children’s sole focus during the holiday season is upon receiving gifts, rather than giving. Homeschool families are not immune from this tendency. So this year, why not allow them the opportunity to give back?

Let me explain. One of the best gifts my husband and I ever gave our children was the concept that giving was a privilege. Here are three family traditions that helped to teach this truth.

The Gift of Food

Our Nebraska farm not only produced corn and soybeans but we also ran a farrow-to-finish swine operation. Our yearly tradition of Santa Pig was birthed from our family’s whimsical imagination and an abundance of pork. This tradition of giving took on a Robin Hood-like feel when we raided our generous freezer and found needy families in our area. Anonymity was foremost as we delivered the sack full of frozen meat to front doors, rang the bell, and left unnoticed. Our hope was the family would open their grocery bag full of roasts, pork chops, and sausage to discover a pig-shaped note declaring that Santa Pig had visited. Can you imagine the joy our children derived from filling the bags, making the tags, choosing the family and then stealthily delivering the meat? It was a privilege to give to those less fortunate!

The Gift of Time

Perhaps the most neglected people are the elderly. The 10 years I worked in a nursing home as a nurse, I frequently noticed older people didn’t have a great deal of contact with their families over the holidays. Time and distance were the most cited factors. Our homeschool group combined their love of singing and the gift of time by arranging caroling to the nursing home in our area. The Activities Director scheduled a time for our group to go from room to room, singing much-loved Christmas songs. After the ambulatory concert, the children visited with the residents about their favorite Christmas memories over hot chocolate and homemade cookies. It was a privilege to give the gift of time to the elderly!

The Gift of Service

My teenage kids were into traditions, but when serving food as a church family at the homeless shelter was suggested, they thought we had gone too far! Undaunted, the homeless shelter’s director was contacted, and the date, time, and amount of food was set to serve the families staying at the shelter. We arrived one hour ahead of the meal to make sure the lasagna and all the fixings were hot and ready to serve. The children were put in charge of setting the table, filling the glasses with drinks, cutting the dessert and placing it on the tables, and later helping clean up the dining room and the dishes. After all were served, our family was able to share food and conversation with the residents of the shelter, and listen to their life stories. It was a privilege to give the gift of service to the homeless!

These three traditions were designed to teach our children how to go out and serve others. To many homeschoolers the concept of giving is not a new one-however, putting giving into practice can be elusive. Parents put effort and time into sheltering their children from the hardships of the world. While giving to the less fortunate of the world and protecting your children might seem like two contradictory points of view, they come together beautifully in the act of giving, especially during the Christmas season.

Philosopher, physician and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer sums up the concept of the privilege of giving when he said, “Even if it’s a little thing, do something for others—something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.”


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