Growth is one of the hardest things to see, isn't it?
Whether it's growth physically, in a skill, or even in character, progress comes so slowly that we often miss it.
This Christmas season, my husband and I were disparaging about the challenges gift-giving poses for those of us who live in a society inundated with everything we need and then some.
We're challenged with ridiculous questions like: What do you give that family member who already purchases everything he wants all year round? Or what do you give the relative whose house is overflowing with more clutter than she knows what to do with?
My husband and I were also discussing the extra challenge of buying for teenagers. We have three teens in the house this year, and what do you buy for kids who are blessed beyond measure? And if you do lavish them with things they don't really need, what are you teaching them about contentment, gratitude, giving, and simple living?
We were a little disturbed when our three oldest added ipod touches to their Christmas wish lists. Many of their friends had been getting ipods, iphones, and even ipads. And so they didn't think anything of asking for such an expensive gift.
When my husband first heard their request, he sat back in shock and said, "When we were kids, we wouldn't have asked our parents for a $200 Christmas present. Why would our kids think they each deserve such an expensive gift?"
My husband and I could only stare at each other with bewilderment. We'd worked so hard over the years to make Christmas about giving. We'd tried to limit the number of gifts. We'd participated in various efforts like Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, going to nursing homes to sing and share, and baking cookies and candy to give away.
As we evaluated our children, we realized they've fallen into the "entitlement trap" that so many kids in our generation have been sucked into. They're a part of a growing population of young people who've never known real hardship or deprivation the way previous generations have experienced through World Wars, national crises, and Great Depressions.
As you can imagine, we sat down with our kids and talked about the problems of expecting much, giving little, and not experiencing true gratitude.
The bottom line is that we're facing an uphill battle against materialism and entitlement, not only with our children but with ourselves. And sometimes it feels as if it's a losing battle. We work hard to instill values and teach character, but it doesn't seem like we're making much progress.
Until we get a glimmer of hope . . .
One day, after discussing some options for our kids about getting ipod touches (namely that they need to earn and save money for them), one of my daughters came to me and said, "Mom, I've been saving up money. But instead of buying an ipod touch, I think I'd like to give my money to help fight sex-trafficking."
She had tears in her eyes. "I just can't bear to think about other girls my age in poorer parts of the world and that kind of stuff happening to them. I want to do what I can to help them."
While my daughter is far from perfect (and still wants an ipod touch), her confession reminds me not to stop fighting to teach my children (and this generation) how to be more selfless, giving, and grateful. They can learn. They're picking up more than we think they are. And they will eventually make progress . . . if we keep persevering to teach them to do what's right.
In light of the Sandy Hook shooting, we certainly have a high calling to continue to work hard at shaping our children into adults who exhibit kindness, selflessness, and integrity.
My encouragement to myself and to everyone this holiday season is not to give up hope. Whether you're having a rough time with your kids, your spouse, or a loved one--in whatever difficulty you're facing, don't stop hoping.
We can't give up hope in seeing progress in ourselves either. Personal growth is usually invisible and becomes clear only after time passes.
Keep up the hard work. And maybe every once in a while you'll get a glimmer of hope. Cling to the hope. Stay the course. Fight the good fight.
What's YOUR biggest challenge this holiday season?
Due to the holidays, I'll be taking a break from blogging. I'll be back on Thursday, January 3. See you then!
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