Christmas Coupons - Gifts From the Heart
- Monday, December 20, 2004
Some say that we give gifts at Christmas following the example of the Wise Men. I disagree. We give gifts because God gave us His very best, the gift of Jesus. His gift of Jesus didn't cost any money, but it was priceless. When we give to one another, we want to give as God does.
This is why our family started giving each other Christmas coupons. I wanted my children to discover that they were rich in ways they could give to others. I wanted to counteract the culture that says 'me, me, me, more, more, more.' I wanted my children to learn that giving means much more than buying gifts—it means giving of ourselves and of our time. Perhaps you and your family would like to join us in making Christmas coupons this year.
In our family we give two Christmas coupons to each family member. One coupon is what I will do "for" that person and the other is what I will do "with" that person.
"For" coupons in our family have included:
- doing another's job for them (washing dishes, taking out trash, mowing the lawn)
- doing special things to help the person (scraping snow and ice off the car; helping clean the basement)
- making something special for that person (a favorite meal or dessert the receiver requests)
The second coupon is what I will do with that person.
"With" coupons in our family have included these 'together' activities: biking, playing ping-pong, making a puzzle, reading a book, playing a game, baking cookies, and building a snow fort.
Christmas coupons are gifts from the heart that need no wrapping. We give our coupons on Christmas Eve, at a separate time from when we give our wrapped gifts. The receiver reads his coupon gift aloud to the family. Together we savor the kindness, love, and creativity of each giver and his gifts.
Our Christmas coupons are my favorite family Christmas tradition. Why?
- Christmas coupons give all family members the opportunity to be generous. These gifts cost time, not money; therefore, each person can give whatever they choose. You'll discover how family members can give one another gifts of enormous value without spending any money.
- Christmas coupons cause us to think. They first cause us to think about each family member. What does that person like to do? What would be fun to do together? Where could they use some help? Second, they cause us to think about what we're able and willing to give. Will this be a one-time gift? Or will it be a multiple-use coupon? Is it seasonal or good anytime? Will it have an expiration date? Each giver has many choices to make and each gift is personal.
- Christmas coupons stimulate creativity. Jonathan usually illustrates his coupons with cartoon figures. One year Tim wrote his coupons on paper snowflakes he had made. Younger children can draw their coupons and parents can write down the explanation. Beyond their design, each coupon reveals something about the giver. There's no limit to what each year's coupons might include.
- Christmas coupons change as we grow. The Christmas after Rachel got her driver's license, her coupon for her younger brother was to drive him anywhere within twenty miles of home. It could be used three different times. Her gift showed consideration and empathy for Jonathan not being old enough to drive. She used her new ability for his benefit.
- Christmas coupons foster conversation and family togetherness. Family members need to communicate to arrange using the coupons. Laughter and conversation are a natural outgrowth of spending time together. Since my children are now young adults, and two are not living at home, I treasure whatever time I can spend with them. My "with" coupon for Rachel was a once-a-month, two-hour activity together of her choice. So far we've baked, played duets on the piano, and watched Anne of Green Gables together. She gave me a coupon to do errands together. I gave Tim a coupon for one ice cream treat of his choice each month. That treat gives us time to talk and catch up on life. Last year, Jonathan and I both gave each other "with" coupons for late night snow walks.
- Christmas coupons are unique ways to say, "I love you." They quietly convey, "I care about you," "you're important," and "I like spending time with you." This Christmas, Rachel will be in Kenya on a mission trip. We'll send her our Christmas coupons in the mail. They will remind her we're thinking of her and eager for her return.
We've given Christmas coupons to one another for fifteen years. This simple idea grew into a special family tradition that brings great joy to the givers and the receivers. Each Christmas Eve as we give our Christmas coupons, our living room seems to be filled with the presence of God. It's just as someone once said, "We are most like God when we give."
Linda Joyce Heaner and her adult children (ages 22, 20, and 18) live in Minnesota. Linda is a freelance author and speaker. Her first book, "God, I Need Help," will be published in early 2005. You can contact Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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