Peace on earth, good presents to me

First Posted: 12/10/2009

Peace on earth, good will toward men, joy to the world … we hear the sayings more and more as Christmas approaches. But lets face it, for many people, the primary focus of the holidays is on self and materialism.
We learn it from a young age. We are taught that if we are good, we will get presents at Christmas. Forget about being good for the sake of being good. We coerce kids into being good by threatening to deprive them of the stuff that they think they so desperately need or deserve.
So Christmas comes each year, and if your family is average or well-off, December is a time to receive present after present. We give our kids toys that they dont need, that will be added to a large forgotten pile of junk that will eventually be taken to a thrift shop.
As these kids get older, they also enter the vicious cycle of spending, spending, spending. They get drawn into the holiday advertisements that begin appearing in October, and they are hooked. They have to go out and buy the best to make their friends and family happy.
Dont get me wrong. Im not opposed to giving gifts. I just think we need to make sure to teach our youngsters a little thankfulness, let them know that its not all about the gifts.
As Ive been typing Santa letters for the past week for the paper, Ive come across some interesting requests. There are those that rip your heart out. Some kids ask for the war to end and the soldiers to come home safe, for their parents to stop fighting, or for the homeless to have food and shelter. Im afraid that I would have been more like one of the kids that gives Santa a laundry list of gadgets ranging from iPods to convertibles to designer clothes.
I think weve failed as a nation to teach our youth that its better to give than to receive. Some kids have that mentality, but many never will.
Something I experienced several years ago forever made an impact on how I view giving. I was at my little brothers birthday party. He was turning 6 and had a wealth of people there to congratulate him and give presents. There was one family from our church there who did not have much money. When my brother opened their present, it was a small stuffed animal that had obviously been used. My brother quickly moved on to the next present which was much more glamorous.
Later I found out that the young girl in the family had desperately wanted to give a present, but they didnt have the money to buy something new. The dad told his daughter to pick out one of her best toys to give to my brother.
Tears came to my eyes as I realized that the girl had given away one of her prized stuffed animals to give to my brother who was being spoiled with goodies. But the joy on that little girls face as she watched my brother open her present was a beautiful thing to behold.
The desire to give that the little girl had, the thankfulness that I learned to have that day those are the things we need to be teaching our kids.
One of our stories this week reported that donations are down at the Salvation Army. With programs like Angel Tree or the Sheriffs Christmas Fund, there are plenty of opportunities to teach our youth valuable lessons about giving. We should let them get involved in donating some of their own money or going out to pick out presents.
We can be the examples as adults, too, by not being selfish this Christmas. Last year I read a story about groups of Jews in the Triad who were volunteering to work at hospitals so that Christians could have Christmas off. What a wonderful way to think of others! Tonight is the start of Hanukkah, and I hope that some people in the Triad are returning the favor this week.
If we want peace on earth this Christmas, weve got to start by truly having good will towards men. That means putting others before ourselves. If we do that, we will snatch our children out of the vicious cycle that teaches that life is all about receiving.
Meghann Evans is a staff reporter with The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at [email protected] or at 719-1952.

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