We adopted our first Compassion child a few months ago. It's been an experience, to say the least. We've talked about him and prayed for him and looked up Ethiopia on the map so we have a better understanding of where in the world our child is. We wrote to him and waited to hear back from him and while we waited, the children started introducing ours as a family of eight, 'just our older brother lives in Africa.'
You can imagine some of the looks people give because surely you know by now how not-shy my children are. At first, even though it warmed my heart, it also caused me to stutter for a second or two, if I'm honest with you. But after I realized how very much they think about their 12 year old 'brother', I just smiled and let them explain away to people.
Not long after we had hung our Compassion child's picture on the fridge and begun praying for him, Christmas stuff started playing across the airwaves. We were in the car coming home from music class one day when a commercial break hit. We heard about a local Christmas charity that was raising funds to give children Santa Claus presents and how these sad children lived right here in our town. The very next commercial was about children in third-world countries fighting to live because of not having fresh water.
Thomas took all of two seconds to come to the conclusion that it was just silly to be worried about Santa Claus when there were bigger issues at stake.
I agreed with him. And my heart swelled with pride that he got it at the same time it broke a little that he got it.
As December descended, we put up our tree and managed to toss about a few decorations, but we focused on our Thankful Tree and our Advent readings. We watched a few classic Christmas specials and even took the kids to see Santa because, for the first time ever, they wanted to see him. They told me after the fact that it was basically just to see if Daniel would scream. For once, he didn't.
On Christmas eve, I filled the stockings with fruits and miniature cereal boxes, as our custom has become. We tossed in a few goodies and trinkets for the kids along with their 'early breakfast' stuff and pulled out the wrapped gifts. There were only two per child and they were far from glamorous. At the last minute, we opted to put them all under the Thankful Tree rather than the Christmas tree.
Honestly, I was struggling. I grew up with lavish Christmases and, even though I am usually pretty confident that we are sending the correct message to our children concerning Christmas, I feel bad when I see that scant scattering of gifts under the tree on Christmas. It's the materialistic, American Dream aspect of my training that rears up and kicks at the simplistic idea of recognizing the season for Who it's really about.
Christmas morning, the kids came after us around 7-ish and we all went downstairs to see the stocking still hung by the chimney with care. Except for Thomas' because the stocking hanger had over-weighted and fallen to the floor, stocking, stuffings and all.
The kids gleefully pulled out candy and cereal and books and stuff. They took joy in one anothers gifts. They cheered as Daniel threw his oranges around screeching 'baaa!' (the boy loves a good ball to play with!) and we all giggled as he tried to eat his banana through the peel.
Not much was said about the pile of rocks we'd stacked under the tree. (I'm still not sure what possessed me to do that...) They took their little cereal boxes to the dining room and started to dig into their breakfast when, finally, someone noticed the wrapped gifts under the Thankful Tree.
They found the gifts with their names on them and finished up their cereal. They loved the bible covers, underwear, flashlights, and the big one, a CD player for the girls room.
And we loved knowing that, even after all the gifts from grandparents and aunts and uncles, we weren't overrun with toys or children who believed they were owed these gifts simply because it was Christmas.
My children, I love that you didn't once complain or whine about our Christmas. I love that you were thankful for each little thing you got and wanted to know about your 'brother' and what he might be doing on Christmas day. I loved that, in the end, the toys fell to the way side and you all used your imaginations and built forts all day long. I loved that my girls made the Monkey Bread this year for our 'second' breakfast and that everyone was glad to just hang out in their pajamas all day and snuggle in for a quiet Christmas at home.