This is a follow up post to one written by Whistlejacket about having too many toys. All the comments to her post were in agreement – yes we have too many toys; yes people are too generous at Christmas but what can we do, relatives like giving children presents; yes there’s no need to buy toys for children to tell them you love them; yes younger children are happy playing with older siblings' toys.
I could, and probably will, write my own post about too many toys and the attraction of de-cluttering to the nostalgic days of “I only had a ball of string and sticks to play with and I was happy”. But I don’t want to be distracted here from the more important message.
I replied to Whistlejacket that one way to help – with the guilt at least – is to get involved with Operation Christmas Child. You wrap a shoe box and pack it with gifts – toys, toiletries, underwear, felt tip pens - for a boy or girl in your chosen age category and it is delivered somewhere around the world as a treasured Christmas present.
I blogged about this last year as it was great to see my then five-year-old enthused about doing this for another child. Even at that age I believe they really can benefit from thinking about those who live very different lives.
Last Christmas, a combination of the huge pile of presents under the tree and their particularly bad and spoilt behaviour made me feel sickened. So I told them about the children whose homes are orphanages in Kyrgyzstan, a poor country where we lived for three years while my husband worked on a drinking water project. I described how many of these children spent most of their time in cots, ate very basic food and had no toys. This image really stuck with my eldest and when they are wasting food or being spoilt about what they have and what they want, a gentle reminder of the children in cots does have an effect. Sometimes he remembers independently – “would children in cots have this?” he asks. One friend admonished me for this saying children should be allowed to stay innocent, but I don’t see the harm in broadening their understanding and encouraging empathy.
My son has just brought his Operation Christmas Child leaflet home from school and we are going to pack this year’s box as a half term project. There’s load of information on their website http://www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk/. If you are interested, don't delay as the deadline for dropping off any boxes is 18 November.