Gifts That Bring True Joy

12/09/13

For the past three years, there haven't been any presents under Karen McGrath's Christmas tree. Instead, hanging from the branches are dozens of white envelopes. 

 
At first it was hard to imagine Christmas without presents. But Karen and her extended family decided to take the leap anyway. "Everyone in the family really didn't need anything," Karen explains, "and we wanted to give gifts that were a little more meaningful." 
 
So her entire extended family decided to forgo material presents and instead give each other gifts from the Children of the Nations gift catalog
 
Karen's children no longer get Christmas presents. Instead they give to children
Karen's children, Kenny and Katie, no longer get Christmas presents. Instead their family gives gifts to children in need in their honor.
 
What at first seemed like a sacrifice has now developed into a rich tradition. Each family member carefully picks out something they think will be most meaningful for the recipient. Then they make their own cards for each other, explaining the gift. (Though you can easily print a card from the COTN gift catalog, Karen's family enjoys making cards themselves.) 
 
They hang the cards on their Christmas tree, and spend Christmas sitting together, exchanging cards, and talking. "It's the highlight of our Christmas now," Karen says. "The time together is much more focused on conversations and enjoying each other. And the giving has been so satisfying."
 
Karen is a teacher, and enjoys raising chickens. So her family picks out things that make them think of her. School supplies, a child's school tuition, and of course, chickens, are a few of the things she's gotten. "That's been the real joy," she says, "finding something that someone cares about and giving in their name."
 
Karen says that seeing a child in need get a gift like a chicken is so cool
Karen says that seeing a child in need get a gift like a chicken is so much more meaningful than getting a material gift.
 
"There is no greater sense of fulfillment," says Karen. "Receiving material gifts is such a short-lived satisfaction. These gifts bring true joy."