Books, books and yet even more books. This house is full of books. My oldest daughter is a voracious reader and I literally have a hard time keeping up with her appetite for reading. It is a luxury, that I am grateful everyday, we can afford. Odd, thinking of books as luxuries, isn't it? In many parts of the world though this is the reality with books. They are a rarity when the real issues of the day are food and water.
I know, though, the difference books can make. I know that books can lift spirits, change attitudes, break down barriers, spark imagination, and educate. I know that books can make you laugh out loud, cry like you lost a loved one, and get so angry your heart races. There is magic in those pages and sometimes I see my daughters take all this magic for granted. Like it's a forgone conclusion that these books would just be here. This frustrates me beyond words.
How do I make them understand?
As we gear up for the Christmas season I am becoming more and more concerned about the "give-mes" in this house and the lack of "give-yous." As always, I try to keep my children focused on the world at large but it's so hard this time of year. We are inundated with commercials and advertisements marketing the latest and greatest at us from every media channel. As adults, some of us have learned to tune out the noise and focus on what really matters. For children, this can be a daunting task. Still developing emotionally and intellectually, it can be very hard to wade through the non-stop barrage of "stuff" to find what really matters.
This year, we're really focusing on life experiences for Christmas. You want singing lessons? Done. You want a stuffed animal that talks? Um, no. And we're also pulling in a new component. One item you ask for on your list must be for a child in need.
This, my friends, makes for some interesting dinner conversations.
Flipping through Plan Canada's Gifts of Hope catalogue is unlike most catalogues you find during the holidays.
"Can you imagine getting a goat for a gift?" we ask Ava our future vet. She giggles and can't stop gushing over how cute that would be. They are cute, we agree, but they also provide a family with milk for hungry little tummies and they help provide income to a family. For the child who thinks that all animals are made for cuddles, this is quite an epiphany.
"Wouldn't it be great to help a girl get her education?" we say to Morgan, our young feminist rising. She ponders this. "You mean girls don't have to go to school? That's kind of cool." she quips in typical pre-teen fashion. I've got her number. "Hmmm, true. No school for the girls but only because they should be cleaning and cooking and having babies. That's what girls do, right?" She flushes red. "No, that's not what girls do! Girls rule." As a big supporter of Because I Am a Girl, she knows girls make all the difference but an occasional nudge gets her all fired up again. Focus regained.
We've left our Gifts of Hope catalogue lying about in the kitchen and recycled the others that encourage taking and not giving. The girls have flipped through and thought about what they'll ask for and I suspect gave some real thought to what it would be like to be these children who receive these gifts.
In the end though, we've come back to the books. For us, gifting a stack of books so that young people can fall into their own little worlds is the best gift we can give as a family. They mean so much to us, and so it comes from our heart. Under the tree this year, will be a thank you from Santa telling the girls that he safely delivered a stacks of books on their behalf and that he is so, so proud of them for thinking of others. And their mom is too.
Well done little ones, well done.