I’ve had a really tough time with guilt when shopping for my kids this season.

Of course I want them to have a good Christmas. They are great kids.

But somewhere inside me I’ve felt like there’s something seriously wrong with just going out and buying them “stuff” when there are so many kids who need things so much worse. I have been trying with all my heart to come up with a great solution. Who can we help? I know there are tons of great, worthy causes out there, but I was looking for something WE could do…together…working outside of ourselves. Not just throwing money at something, but really rolling up our sleeves and really making a difference.

Our own family project.

Maybe I have too big a vision in my mind and I just need to settle down, but I can’t. I just have this continual pang in my heart and voice in my head saying, “get out there and do something meaningful with your family! These kids need to give outside of themselves. They need to see the bigger picture. They need to sacrifice. They need to learn the true meaning of LOVE MORE…and so do you!”

My sisters both had “Children for Children” concerts this year. It’s something my family did when we were young…had a big neighborhood concerts in their neighborhoods where all the kids would perform their talents for the adults who would pay whatever admission price they felt inclined to, and all the proceeds went to a worthy cause. I wish we could have “gotten it together” this year, but I just physically could not do it. It was like one of those dreams where you are trying to run away from a bad guy and you just can’t move and coordinate your muscles right, and you wake up so tired and un-rested because you’ve been trying your darndest to run all night long.

So, in answer to my prayers, a lady stood up in Relief Society last week and announced she had a family who really really needed help this Christmas. We jumped right on it, and it’s helped fill a little of the void. As a family we shopped together, wrapped together, talked about it all together. It really helped.

But there has to be something more…something I can really get us all involved in on a long-term basis. Something that we can really do to physically, emotionally, spiritually help someone…not just throwing money at the situation. And in the process, we’d physically, emotionally, and spiritually help ourselves become more whole…more a part of the bigger picture. I want to get in the thick of it with the kids. I want them to open their eyes and realize what’s really going on out there. I want them to know there are kids out there who not only don’t have skateboards and bikes, but who are abused and starving to death, and I want them to help figure out ways we can help.

I’ve been worried about this for quite a while. About six months ago the title of Newsweek was all about global giving, and I thought, “there’s my answer!” But as I skimmed through the pages I found nothing…it was just all skimming the surface. There are SO many needs out there!

How can I make giving more poignant to our family? There are tons of ways to give money. Giving money is so important and necessary, but how can I get our family to really feel it. We tried taking them to live in China for a summer. I felt like that was my big chance! We’d be able to really see the world from a different perspective. And we did. But we were also surrounded by people who have a lot. Drivers, maids, live-in babysitters…not quite what I had in mind. But yes, their eyes were opened to how another part of the world lives. We lived in a neighborhood filled with people from every corner of the world. And yes, we did get to get out and see people living in the shanty towns with nothing but a little hut made of garbage for shelter. But did we change anything? I guess yes, we changed ourselves. And that is great. We became more aware and compassionate that there are people out there with needs. But now how do we help them?

Maybe I have a skewed view of the world because I grew up in a family that traveled a lot and was always involved in ways to “give back.” Maybe part of my guilt comes from that being so great and I’m not living up to it. And I know not every family can do what we did, we just had the stars aligned in the right way to make it possible and very determined parents. But I’m glad for the guilt because it’s going to kick me into gear here one of these days and we’re going to make our big “drop in the bucket” and make a difference somehow. After Christmas my goal is to start a “sister school” thing with my kids’ elementary school and a school where Dave and I visited in Africa a few years ago. I’m excited about that prospect of at least getting us started in something. But I’d love to welcome any other ideas. I know there are so many people out there with amazing ideas of ways in which to “give back” and I’d love to hear them.

Sorry about the random ramblings, but I have to get this out. I know we do a lot of good. We serve in our community, we teach our kids to look out for others who may be lonely or sad, we bring cookies to a cute elderly lady with MS in our neighborhood. We build each other up and we talk at dinner about the world and life and how amazing it all is. We truly love each other and I do feel like a good, loving family does change the world. Who knows what these kids will grow up to be…I bet they’ll be great. But I want so much to reach out more to the world somehow. And I’m glad for the guilt until I figure it out.

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  1. Oh Shawni! I was so happy to “hear” from you on my blog today! AND I AM IN LOVE with your photo blog. You are so awesome!! One day… when it’s MY day… I want YOU to document it!

    As for the guilt…I think that’s a dirty word. 🙂 But I totally get what you are saying. Totally! I’ve been wrestling with some of that myself. Especially after my Thailand trip. I’ve been working on the next trip (hopefully in March) but keep having this thought about what my daily contribution is and a life of consecration. I guess when it’s said and done, did I feel the nudges to do good and to be good throughout the common day. Just look at all that you are doing to prepare 5 beautiful children to get into the world and serve. That’s enough. Especially since it’s the most important work ever. I think you are so very, very good.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. Our family has “adopted” a refugee family from Delfar and Samalia. There are over 700 refugees that come to SLC, UT each month! We are going to go see them once a month and help them with something new each month. The government only gives them $650 for 6 months TOTAL! The family we are adopting has been in a refugee camp for 10 yrs and the dad had his leg cut off by a mashetty (sp?) by some rebels. I am sure you have the same type of things where you live. I have a contact person here that may know of another contact person in your area. I will find out that info for you. What would be the best way, email? My kids have defineately realized where they live and how they live is completely different and are learning the true meaning of gratitude. Some months we will just serve them, some months I would like to take them around and show them some sites. Anyway, I am excited to adopt this family and many others. We are soooo blessed and the more we serve the more gratitude we feel. Hope this helps!

  3. I forgot to add..thanks for the info on the camera! I currently have a Nikkon D70. I’ll look into getting lightroon for by bday. Thanks a ton!!!

  4. I totally here what you are saying and I try to come up with new ideas all the time. I think as long as we are always serving and trying to help others it doesnt have to be some big grand thing. I think being mothers we want our children to understand what they have and we feel a lot of pressure to serve because we are so blessed. Sometimes I have noticed it is the little things that go along ways. Sometimes unplanned and last minute. Not meaning that big things are bad but we have different stages in our lives where we can do different things. I guess what I am trying to say is that I think you are always serving and you dont give yourself enough credit for what you do.

  5. Shawni, it’s a good thing that you feel guilt in a way–that means you are a thoughtful, giving, caring person. Those are all wonderful traits! Just don’t be too hard on yourself. I find that with little kids acts of service have to be in small doses throughout the year. Perhaps this year focus on little acts of service you can involve your kids in–and talk to them about it while it is happening to make sure it sinks in. Maybe when they are older you can do something more extensive, longer, and most likely in a foreign country. I think you are a great person and a great Mom just for the record. Hopefully we do a retreat this year! Have a Merry Christmas. Off to discover your photo blog!

  6. You are so sweet Shawni.I know you aren’t the only one who feels this way. We get so caught up in the commercialism of the day that we forget how simply it started! Please share any good ideas you get so we can be on top of the game for next season!

  7. I’ve had those same thoughts. This year we really focused on our family and Christ and left out the gift stuff. They did get a few presents, but it was really simple. We had secret santas who came for twelve nights and it was exciting for my kids and we hope to do that for someone else next year.

    We are also saving our money this year to buy animals for needy families. Sounds weird, but it’s fun for my kids. At Heifer.com you can purchase an animal for another family. They have a bunch of options, so even a little kid can buy a chicken. Anyway, kind of random, but for me in my sometimes overwhelming world, this was something my kids could do all year to help them remember.

    I am amazed by your sister city you are starting. Seriously! You rock!

  8. Shawni

    I so identify with you. I have dreams of the same things you describe and feel the same guilt. I don’t have answers, but just having that mindset will lead you to the right places to serve. I rarely visit blogs. I’m just up late at Kara’s and not tired. I need to figure out all this technology stuff. I need to blog just for personal therapy more than anything. My husband would love it. Then he wouldn’t have to listen to all the rambling. Sure love you Shawni and wish you were in my life more. Heather

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