“A Year without Gifts,” Friend, Dec. 2006, 20–22
“‘He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.’”* Dad finished reading the scripture and set the Bible on his lap. “What do you think this verse means?” he asked.
Peter, the oldest child in the family, raised his hand. “Does it mean giving service to others?”
Mom nodded. “That’s one way we can give ourselves to the Lord. For our new year’s resolution, we’ve decided to focus on giving service to others and to our family.”
“We have decided to spend one family home evening each month serving someone else,” Dad said.
“We are also going to stop buying gifts for the whole year,” Mom continued.
Robbin and Peter sat up straight.
“No gifts!” Peter cried.
“No presents?” Robbin asked.
Julia was quiet, too little to understand.
Mom shook her head.
“Wait a minute!” Robbin exclaimed. “No presents? None at all?”
“I didn’t say no presents,” Mom said. “We’re not buying any presents. This year, we’re going to make presents for each other.”
Peter and Robbin looked at each other doubtfully. It didn’t sound like much fun.
Valentine’s Day came quickly, and for family home evening they baked and decorated cookies, something they hadn’t done in a long time. They took some to an elderly neighbor and left the plate on the porch anonymously. As the family shared their homemade valentines, it seemed like this was the best Valentine’s Day they’d ever had.
For Easter, Peter made a treasure hunt for Robbin using an old Easter basket and plastic eggs stored from last year. Inside the basket was his favorite puzzle, which he knew Robbin enjoyed.
Robbin drew pictures for Mother’s Day, and Peter washed the car inside and out for Father’s Day.
Mom started a Sunday tradition of baking gingerbread, always two batches. The family ate one and delivered the other to someone in the ward.
As Christmas drew near, the family worked secretly as they made presents for each other. On Christmas morning, the children awoke to find a large pile of presents in front of the tree, along with their own handmade gifts.
“There aren’t any names on these ones,” Robbin said, patting a large box.
“Who are they for?” Peter asked.
Julia scrambled around the packages, pulling at the bows and paper.
Mom smiled. “Let’s open them and find out.”
Peter tore open a heavy package. “Bars of soap? How many bars of soap do I need?”
Robbin unwrapped another box. “Toothpaste?” She giggled. “Mom, there must be 20 boxes of toothpaste in here. Oh, and toothbrushes.”
Julia opened two packages with lots of combs. Peter opened a slim box of zipping plastic bags. He started to laugh. “Mom, why do I need plastic bags for Christmas?”
“Towels!” Robbin exclaimed, lifting a bundle of colorful towels out of a box.
Peter smiled at Mom and Dad. “All right. What’s going on?”
“With all of these things we can make hygiene kits,” Dad said. “The Church sends them to people who are in an emergency situation and have nothing.”
“Like an earthquake?” Robbin guessed.
Mom nodded. “Exactly. Let’s make these hygiene kits, and hopefully we’ll feel more grateful for our wonderful blessings this Christmas season.”
They quickly formed an assembly line. Each person was assigned an item to place in the bags—two bars of soap, four toothbrushes, one toothpaste tube, two combs, and two towels.
“You know,” Robbin said as she carefully placed two more combs into a bag, “this is fun. It makes me feel good to think we’re helping someone else.”
Everyone agreed, and they felt the joy that comes from serving others.
“He who gives money gives much, he who gives time gives more, but he who gives of himself gives all. Let this be a description of our Christmas gifts.”
President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, “The Gifts of Christmas,” Ensign, Dec. 2003, 5.
For ideas for families to participate in humanitarian aid projects, visit www.providentliving.org. Click on “Humanitarian Services,” then “How Can I Help?”