Thursday, December 20, 2012

Give it away~ Christmas that is!

I wrote a post at Christmas time last year entitled, "Give this Christmas Away".  I'm going to repost it now with some updated information relevant to this year, but the message for us all is still so challenging.

I've been reflecting about Christmas lately and just how completely different December feels here.  There's no junk mail filled with tempting gift ideas shoved into the mail box. We don't have a television, so there are no ads proclaiming the newest 'thing' that we need.

And besides some random attempts by the big department stores to pretty things up with lights and a few Christmas trees, there's not too many other clues that Christmas is just around the corner.  
It also dawned on me that for several of our ZOE children, this will be their first experience of Christmas, ever!  
For the majority of Thai people, who are Buddhists, Christmas is not celebrated but rather the coming of the New Year.  At ZOE though, the excitement is building and the children are looking forward to not just what they can get, but just as much what they can give.  We have service projects planned for a few days time where the ZOE families will be helping with cleaning in certain areas around our local areas, serving and sharing God's love.  And Christmas Day is going to be a special celebration of what this day signifies within the Christian faith. 

Have you heard the song, Give This Christmas Away?  It's one that I really like and I've posted it below if you haven't heard it.
I'm continually challenged to fully grasp what this looks like for our family and how we can act upon it.  
The true meaning of Christmas, and what Jesus' birth means to us, prompts me to ask how can I give back, focussing on the most important gift of all.
I definitely haven't "arrived" in this area, but I would like to share some of the ways that our family is attempting to give this Christmas away.  AND I am hoping that you'll join in and add some of your good ideas in the comment box below.  

Okay so these are the easiest ways that I've found so far:
1. Buy an extra pressie.
Choose a tag off one of those Christmas trees set up at your local shops or school that requires you to buy a gift for a child of a particular age/ sex etc.  This year we picked a little boy about Tobi's age who needed a new school bag.  
Result: This can be a great conversation starter for discussing needs verses wants, and a reflection on what other children do or don't have in comparison. 

2. Against the odds.
I wasn't going to buy Christmas cards this year (opting just to email or post out our Christmas letter) however I had the opportunity to purchase some from a friend who, in her spare time, works with an orphaned, HIV girl to teach her card making skills.  My friend was helping to sell the girl's cards for her.  I felt so happy to be able to support her in this small way and I scored some beautiful hand-made cards!
Result: Win-win!

3. Life goes on
When a natural disaster occurs, like last year's Bangkok floods, there was much to do to rebuild the lives of those affected.  Last year our church gave us a list of everyday grocery items that we could buy to make bags and send to those still requiring relief in certain areas.  I love to shop, so I found it fun searching for the items on the list like sardines in tomato paste {ew} and other practical items like mosquito repellant, oil, rice, fish sauce, noodles, soap, toothpaste, sugar etc.
Photo taken by Tobi!
Result: I bought three lots of everything and left it up to my three children to pack one bag each.  I was able to talk about why we were helping as we packed and Eliana even went and drew some pictures to put in the bags too!  Look for ways that your local community groups and churches are helping out after a crisis occurs and join their efforts to bring assistance.

4. Buy fair trade  
This is talked about often so I won't go into it too much.  When you have the option, make a choice that gives farmers a fair price and help in community development projects.  Over here, I found some Akha Ama coffee beans to give as presents that are produced by local entrepreneurs supporting Akha communities and encouraging farmers to put more efforts in sustainable and organic agriculture. The Akhas belong to an indigenous group living in the highlands of Thailand.   We also buy coffee beans from one of the ZOE staff members here whose grandfather has a coffee planation that Dave has actually been to.  And we have a small range of fair trade chocolate too which makes great "teacher" presents.
Result: Supporting local traders and communities so that they can strengthen and continue to achieve sustainable farming.  

5. Buy handmade. 
Over the years here, I found some great items in a little shop over here (similar to the Oxfam shop) that sells handmade items by local hill tribe people.  In buying products from this shop which includes clothes, bed covers, jewelry, silverware, musical instruments, and dolls made by Thailand’s six hill tribes, it helps to support artisans from the hill tribes to earn an income.
Result: Profits from BPP & Hill Tribe go to support hill tribe villages and to the Border Patrol Police school students and their families.

6. Get involved! 
Help out/ support/ attend your local carols.  In our local area, Tobi's school puts on a wonderful carols service every year and everyone from the school community pitches in by baking and supplying hot cocoa etc and the whole event: food, entertainment ... everything is opened up and offered for free to our Thai neighbours that live around the school.
Result: Building relationships, being generous, seeking to live in harmony and strengthen our community.

7. Buy local.
When possible, we like to buy from the person in the street.  This year with one gift idea, we were able to buy most of what we needed from a little Thai lady in a market stall at our local market.  Think about where you buy so that, when possible, your helping the people doing business locally and showing your support.
Result: Strengthening local businesses.

8. Share the load.
It often takes a lot of work to give out and provide for a large number of people (we sure know about that here) but it doesn't seem so hard when lots of people contribute.  The little Christmas stockings filled with candy and hanging on the Christmas tree at ZOE have been filled by several of the volunteer families here. Each family contributes just a little bit, and when we all pool together...
Result: A lovely little treat for the ZOE kids to enjoy over Christmas!

9. Out with the old. 
Go through your children's clothes and toys with them (before Christmas) and assist them with choosing some of their toys to donate to a community group that works with children, to either provide for or sell these items to fund their work.  We did this today and the result was two basketfuls of soft toys and some bags of clothes.
Result: A great chance to reflect on how much we have to be thankful for but also to think about not just giving away out of our excess.  Encourage children not to just give away what is broken, dirty, worn or outgrown.  This is very challenging!

10. Invest
It's so easy to get 'stuck' in our Christmas traditions that have become so comfortable and easy.  Have you thought about investing your time on Christmas day into an elderly neighbour with nowhere else to go, a single mother or the family that just migrated away from another country? 
Christmas is a time when you have a great opportunity to connect and share with someone around you and get the chance to make sure no-one is alone.
Despite not being with my family back in Australia during this special time, I am glad that I have such a big family here to join with on Christmas Day.  I am definitely being changed, stretched and challenged and I will continue to keep thinking about this concept some more.  Please share your ideas too so that we can all have a big list to remind us.
Enjoy the song!


Anonymous said...

What fantastic ideas. The past two years we have had Christmas at our place and opened Christmas lunch up to anyone we know in our networks (and those of the family) who might need company on the day. I also got in early this year and did lots of my shopping second hand/vintage and handmade. Its been great. Another one of our favorite things is to replace the '$10' gifts we would buy for our extended network or friends with donations made on their behalf - so far no complaints and what we have found is that it creates a flow-on effect as well. Its great to hear your ideas and I think I could apply to idea of donating some things to myself, without waiting to have kids :) (Meke)

Cross Family said...

Thanks! Those ideas are so great. It can be fun and creative to find ways to not just do things the way we always have. Love what you suggested Meke! And Merry Christmas to you and Christian. x