This past week, I tackled a long over-due project in my home that I’ve been dreading for years: I cleaned out my youngest son’s bedroom. The poor kid left for college the same year his older two siblings got married and for that reason, the massive room overhaul was postponed. I’m not much of a spring cleaner (as in, it just didn’t happen except for maybe once every decade), so the thought of walking into his room was more than daunting. It took me a full week to weed through box after box of toys, clothes, books, and gadgets from his childhood. I uncovered a few priceless treasures, but honestly, it amounted to a whole lotta JUNK.
The crazy thing is much of this worthless junk entered our home by way of Christmas morning, wrapped in a box and sitting under a Christmas tree. Many of the items were things my son had to have because “all my friends have one;” “my life won’t be complete without it;” “I saw it on TV;” and yeah, you get the picture. Gameboy consoles with a bazillion cassettes, now extinct. Virtual pets (that mothers ended up caring for), an old pair of Nike Air Jordans that promised to make him cool; Houston Astros and Dallas Cowboys paraphernalia out the kazoo (remember back when they were winning teams?), vintage flip-phones that were oh-so-trendy at the time, and more.
I suppose I saved much of it because I thought it would mean something to him someday, given the value he had placed on them at the time. The bigger the junk pile became, the more convicted I felt. Before I bagged the expired must-haves up for a Salvation Army pick-up, I thought I’d give him one last chance to claim any treasures worth keeping. He was due home for the Christmas holidays, so I laid out the past birthday and Christmas plunder and told him to grab anything he wanted to keep or say his goodbyes. He plucked a few random things from the pile and walked away from the rest, without a second thought.
So, why am I telling you this? I suppose it’s because I wish someone had bothered to remind me that most of the things our kids clamor for each year when Christmas rolls around, will someday be junk — junk I will have to rifle through someday with a stab of conviction. Oh sure, it may give our kids a temporary zing of satisfaction in the days that follow, but alas, that zing always wears off. I’m certainly not suggesting we give our children nothing for Christmas, but what if we scaled back on their wishlists and instead, gave them something with lasting value? What if we made it more about giving than receiving? Trust me, I’m stepping on my own toes here, as I type that last sentence.
About seven years ago, my daughter (16 at the time) asked for a pair of Ugg boots. The problem is, she already owned a pair of Ugg boots. Granted, these were blue Uggs…and she found them on Ebay for a fraction of the cost…and most of her friends had the blue ones…and blah, blah, blah. Here we go again. That was the year, I wised up and gave my daughter something better than Ugg boots. We sponsored little Aphichok from Thailand through Compassion. He was three years old at the time and next month, little Api (as we like to call him) will celebrate his 10th birthday. I let my daughter choose which child we would sponsor and I assumed she would go for a darling little girl with pigtails and a charming smile, but no, she immediately pointed to Aphichok and said, “I want the angry-looking little boy.” Bless him. Isn’t he the cutest?
We’ve written to little Api over the years and I carry his pictures in my wallet to remind me to pray for him (and to help serve as a deterrent to pulling out my credit card to purchase more stuff that will end up in a future junk pile). In fact, I wrote to Api just last night and sent him an updated picture of our family. But here’s the coolest part about sponsoring Api: my daughter and her husband just sponsored their own child through Compassion this past year. The gift of sponsoring Aphichok was not only lasting, it was contagious. It followed her into her marriage, which is more than we can say for the Ugg boots.
This Christmas, would you consider giving your children the gift of sponsoring a child? Maybe you could do it together as a family and let your children choose the child like I did with my daughter. I realize that times are tight and not everyone can consider it, but I know many of you who are reading this can. Give your children a gift that keeps on giving — a gift with lasting value that won’t land in a junk pile or someday.
The real blessing is that your sponsorship may introduce a needy to child to the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. And isn’t that really what Christmas is really all about?
Click here to see the children who are waiting for sponsors. What do you say…can I count you in?
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (1 John 5:11)