A Christmas challenge: Are you in?

Last night, I read my kids the last chapter of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  Grant and I both cried.  And after I tucked them into bed and was doing the dishes, I kept thinking about how I haven’t done much to act out the true meaning of Christmas yet this year.  And my wheels started turning, and I made a plan.  And I love it, so I wanted to invite you to join in.  It’s nothing super original– maybe a twist on two or three different ideas I’ve heard about before all lumped together– but I’m confident it will help me get my Christmas mojo back (can I be honest?  I’ve never really understood that word.), and more importantly, share with others the love of God and the spirit of the season.

So here’s the basic idea:  Random acts of kindness every day for the Twelve Days of Christmas. It can be anything. (Hence, “random.”)

Here are a few ideas I threw around in my head:  mailing a Christmas package to someone, paying for the next person’s order in the drive-thru window or swiping my card to pay for a particular someone’s purchase behind me in the checkout line at the grocery store, write a letter or make a phone call to someone who might need it, show up at another tired mom’s house and help her fold laundry or wrap presents, drop off goodies at the house of a grumpy or lonely neighbor, . . .  You get the idea.  No need to spend– just look for an opportunity for kindness and jump on it, whether for a loved one or a stranger.

So I’m going to start on December 13th (this Sunday) and spread some Christmas kindness every day through Christmas Eve.  And I’ll involve my children as much as possible– coming up with ideas, or making something together, or delivering or whatever– so that we can feel the spirit of it as a family.  Anybody want to join me in the challenge?

Here’s a button if you want one.  You can blog about it and invite others, or put it on your sidebar as a reminder, or do whatever works for you.

This post right here can be the gathering place for sharing the joy.  Come back and report each day what you did. (I’ll keep a link on my sidebar here for easy access.) And unless you’re in it for the glory, comment your “reports” anonymously or with initials or a pseudonym or something.  I just think it would be fun to hear about each other’s experiences and rejoice (anonymously) in the whole business of joyful service together. Plus, we can read and then steal ideas.

“In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service. ‘It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.’  Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Then each Christmas will be the best Christmas ever.”Thomas S. Monson

I feel more Christmasy already.

p.s.  The reporting back is not necessary, but just helps with three things:  1) accountability/slacker prevention, 2) letting you “tell” someone about something you did that you’re so excited about, but you can still remain anonymous, and 3) sharing service ideas.  There’s no rule about reporting daily, just update us as often as you can or want to.


41 thoughts on “A Christmas challenge: Are you in?

  1. I am totally in. I am scared that I will let myself down – but I really am going to try. Thanks for the ideas! I look forward to looking at others ideas. My mind is blank at the moment.

  2. I was just reading a book about the same type of thing and I am getting ready to start with my family on Sunday also! Along with that we are going to write down things we are thankful for every day and read them out loud on Christmas day. Last year at a craft super Sat. we made these adorable decorated paint cans, with ribbon and Christmas paper. I have been trying to figure out what to do with it and decided to use it as our “Thankful Can” (? I am trying to come up with a cuter name to call it but my creative side is all tapped out at the moment..) to hold all our thankful thoughts until the big day. So, needless to say I AM IN! I am actually excited and not stressed out!

  3. Does all this have to be done in twelve consecutive days? Or can the acts of kindness be spread out over the whole month of December and around Christmas? Yesterday, my husband and I delivered a turkey to a family that is out of work right now. And I know on Christmas Day my family will be singing carols at the hospital where my dad works as a nurse. So, I know I have two things, but they are more than twelve days apart from each other.

    Of course, I know my acts of kindness shouldn’t be limited to only twelve days in a row! 😀 I really like this idea. Thanks!

    • I’m going to do it the 12 days in a row, just to kind of consistently build up to Christmas Day, but there are no rules. Please do whatever works best for you and your family. “Joining” is simply a commitment to focus on kindness and service during the Christmas season. It sounds like you’re already off to a great start.

  4. seriously, you have the best ideas! When I grow up I want to be just like you. And I am going to try to do this. It will be hard (new baby… can’t take her out just yet) but I am going to try nonetheless.

  5. Our whole relief society is doing this!!!!! Instead of having a Super Saturday where we spend six hours making crafts that we never finish, we got together and made little goodie bags for women in our ward that need a pick-me-up this month. We have a large percentage of widows, single women, recently divorced women, and just all around wonderful people that don’t have their Christmas mojo, as you put it, functioning at any level. We’re actually going out in teams, and my team decided to dress in black and paint our faces with black grease paint, and we’re going to stalk our friend’s house for twelve nights in a row. Okay, I know that’s going a little overboard, but this gal really needs a good laugh, and I really hope this will do it for her! (If it doesn’t freak her out and get the police after us first!)

  6. Inspired by President Monson’s conference talk, What Have I Done for Someone Today, we had a Family Home Evening and related the story of Dr. McConnell. As a little motivation for our kids to look for opportunities to serve, we started a candy jar. Each night we report what service we went out of our way to render, and for each act of service we put a candy into our jar. When the jar is full, they get to start eating it. I think this idea of yours is just what we need to step things up a notch. (Every night Jesse tells us, in response to the question, “Did you do something for someone today?”, “I helped Kennedy cry!” Ummm, not exactly what we’re going for.) Plus, we like to do the 12 Days of Christmas, but I just wasn’t feeling it this year. At least, not doing one person each night. (We had our challenges last year and we did the elderly man who lives right behind us. I just couldn’t figure how we would manage it if we had to drive somewhere every night to deliver.) Anyway, I’ll run this by the family, but I’m pretty sure they will be excited about it.

  7. I’m in! Curt and I just took some of his Christmas bonus and gave it to the food shelter. We thought about Toys for Tots but we think they need food more. We have also done the 12 days of Christmas for different families over the years but I like this idea too! So I say…..lets begin!

  8. You are such an inspiration Stephanie, truly. I love how you share your striving to be even more fabulous than you already are with us, and make us want to be better too.

    I’m barely coping with basic life functions right now so…I’m totally in! I need to focus on something outside of myself and this seems just right.

  9. what a great idea. Thank you for the reminder of how simple little things can really add up to a great experience this Christmas for the family. Sometimes I think too hard about what to do with the girls to make it a memorable year and memorable Christmas traditions that teach them the true meaning of Christmas. We have been doing an advent calender but eating the candy and slacking off in the aspect of service. I love this idea and will definitely be running it by the family . Merry Christmas!

  10. What a wonderful goal. I earned my AA from Weber State yesterday and there was a wonderful speaker at my graduation. I left feeling like I can change the world. In tiny little ways, I intend to make a difference in other people’s lives. I’m so glad to see this desire all around me, too. We can do it!

  11. I know this is a day early, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to “warm up”.

    I went to some markets today and saw a mother struggling to pack up her things in what was very windy conditions. She had a baby attached to her front and didn’t seem to be getting anywhere with the packing up. So I offered to help.

    IT helps that I prayed and asked for an opportunity to serve today. I think if we are going to introduce this to our families it would be a great teaching opportunity for answers to prayers as well.

  12. I think I’m in. how’s that for commitment?

    I hadn’t even thought about this post today, just came here to re-read. And remembered … when I stopped at Walgreens drive through to pick up a prescription this afternoon, the lady in front of me had her gas tank door open, so I jumped out and closed it for her. She was thankful and it made me feel good.

    I’ll have to think about what to do the rest of the week, but am excited to get some service going.

  13. Fab idea! I will do this starting tomorrow & make notes to myself even to remember (those little reminders tend to help!). Wish you were in my real-life ward/group of friends. You are such an inspiration!!

  14. Oh, Steph, how great!! We have been trying to serve like crazy for the past month and a half (because I heart Thanksgiving) but I love this idea… looking for something to do every DAY for the next 12 days. And I love the comment from “Too Excited to Wait” who said that she was praying for an opportunity to serve. That, alone, was a reminder to me to PRAY for it. Huzzah and thanks! I’m in!

  15. Today we put together a care package of Christmas decorations to mail to a friend who recently lost their job in hopes that it helps them feel a little joy this season in a way that they probably wouldn’t splurge on themselves. My children picked out their favorite decorations at the store yesterday and we put the package together today. We’re all excited to send it and hope it really makes their day when it arrives.

  16. So far, we’ve written notes to the kids’ teachers to thank them for all that they do for us, and will be making them some goodies later. We also called our grandparents to wish them a happy day, and yesterday my daughter turned in all of the papers of the kids in her group for them so they didn’t have to get up. We counted that for yesterday as I was sick. Looking forward to hearing what everyone else is doing to get some more ideas. We’ve had fun so far!

  17. Day 2: Lame, hard day, but the best we could do was make a Herculean effort to clean up the whole house and get dinner made before Daddy got home. The kids helped and we got things looking/feeling pretty nice. Because his life is stressful right now and we thought he’d appreciate it. I know it’s weak, but it was the best we could come up with.

  18. so i was all gung ho to do this and we talked about it with our kids on Sunday. and then i came down with a killer sinus infection (and I’m 14 weeks pregnant) and have been put out of commission. However, I will tattle tell on a friend who heard I’m not feeling well and called today and is coming to get my kids so I can nap this afternoon. I will pay it forward as soon as I get better!

  19. Yesterday, I felt like I should run and get something for my daughter’s therapist to say thank you. My daughter absolutely loves her, which makes the therapy so much easier. We zipped over to the nearest “gift” type store and I grabbed a Willowtree statue, had them throw it in a gift bag, and zoomed home. We got here just as our therapist pulled up. I waved and zipped my kids, and the bag, to the front door. When I turned around, I just noticed that our normally cheerful therapist looked really tired and haggard. SO unlike her. She got started with her therapies and I debated about the best way to give her the gift. Finally, I just handed it to her. She seemed so touched. I also told her to skip our therapy session next week, and to go have lunch with her daughter for Christmas. That brought tears to her eyes. I was really grateful for the prompting!

  20. Today, I actually had the sister missionaries over to serve *me*. Which sounds so funny. But I really, truly needed the service. The folded my laundry. They washed my dishes. They cleaned the living room. And in the midst of it, the primary president showed up with cinnamon rolls and started helping. And I sat there thinking of how blessed I am to be a part of… this. So, while this may be different, I think it’s still good–allow yourself to be served, for Christmas.

  21. Yesterday, I decided that I would write a note to a mom that lives near me to let her know that I have observed her “enjoying the moments” of motherhood. She was out jumping on the trampoline with them (in 30 degree weather) when I drove by the other day. Way nicer than me.
    I hope she doesn’t think I am some stalker or something creepy. I signed my first name so maybe that will help.?? I just decided that if some stranger told me that she thought I was a great mom, who was a good example of someone who knew motherhood was important and was recognizing that that joy “comes in moment” that should be cherished, it would pretty much make my day. I left this quote from M. Russell Ballard in the envelope, too:

    “The first question: What can you do, as a young mother, to reduce the pressure and enjoy your family more?

    First, recognize that the joy of motherhood comes in moments. There will be hard times and frustrating times. But amid the challenges, there are shining moments of joy and satisfaction.

    Author Anna Quindlen reminds us not to rush past the fleeting moments. She said: “The biggest mistake I made [as a parent] is the one that most of us make. … I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of [my three children] sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less” (Loud and Clear [2004], 10–11).

    Today, we made treats for the kids’ school teachers and we also let someone else serve us by bringing us dinner (which was much needed and lovely) and that brings us blessings, too.

  22. Yesterday, on my way to the grocery store, I passed a neighbors’ house with lights on. I haven’t seen them for months and thought I should stop and see how they’re doing, so I did. (They’re older and she has cancer and their family had a recent tragedy.) They loved the visit and I ended up staying for almost an hour and almost didn’t make it to the grocery store before it closed, but I was so glad I turned around and stopped.

    Today, we took a friend on some errands who’s without a car, and I gave away a stamp in the post office line so that someone wouldn’t have to wait the whole line just to buy a stamp. (practically insignificant, but they were glad to not have to wait.)

  23. Traditionally, every year we pick one family and for the 12 days leading up to CHristmas, we secret Santa them. Leave little goodies on the doorstep and run. We leave a little poem that goes with each day and corresponds to the poem “12 days of Christmas” It is my children’s favorite Christmas tradition.
    This year we could not narrow our list down to just one family. We are surrounded by so much need. So, we decided that instead of one family we do multiple families. But they each get one visit. We have been able to leave a secret gift on the doorstep of many families, and we still have another week to keep going!!
    I was pleased at how much I could do for little cost.
    It really hasn’t even cost us that much to spread a little of the magic of Christmas

  24. Our son is in the MTC and his older sister did the 12 days of Christmas for him. He is enjoying having something to open each day and goodies to share with his district.

    I have a couple of vegetarian neighbors so I found a vegan gingerbread cookie recipe and made cookies for them. I was surprised at how tasty they were and feel inspired to cook healthier for a New Year’s resolution. So my effort to spread a little joy will bring some back to us for a healthier new year.

  25. I have been lurking on your blog for a few weeks now and I have to say I am in love. You make me feel like a normal person and at the same time make me want to be a better person. Thank you!

    I love this post.

    We have been doing this all month this year. Instead of candy in the advent calendar I put in acts of service for each day that the kids could participate in. Walking neighbor dogs, making gifts, shoveling someones driveway with me (they are 8wks, 2, and 3 so not much help with that one), giving hugs at church, etc. They are loving it and ask every morning…”what nice thing do we do today?” I am loving it too. After your challenge we have stepped it up and added other services to our list as well. Babysitting for neighbors so they can finish Christmas shopping, taking dinner unexpectedly that they can freeze or eat, email caroling to grandmas that live far away (on video that is attached to email), etc. I think this will be a tradition that sticks.

  26. A few others, in no particular order: I helped a girl at Target who was fainting and dizzy. Apparently she was dehydrated from chemo treatments. I stayed with her and comforted her until her mother could go get the car and come back with her. Another kind stranger talked to my daughter in the shopping cart while I helped the girl.

    We had the missionaries over for dinner and I tried my best to make it something they would really appreciate.

    We made gingerbread cookies and gave them to some neighbors.

    I volunteered at my son’s school.

    I wrote notes to some friends who might be feeling forgotten.

    I’m loving this Christmas.

  27. Hi Stephanie – fantastic idea – we’re in – starting a bit late – but better late than never – we have spread the word and blogged about your idea on out site 🙂
    May God’s peace and blessing be with you

  28. saw your idea on my sisters blog

    and I like her started on Christmas Day in New Zealand

    The council rubbish men were picking up rubbish and I rushed out and gave them a handful of wrapped lollies. I think I cheered them up 🙂 I was watching them from upstairs window afterwards. They seemed happier 🙂

  29. My RAK today (boxing day in NZ) was getting a drink 4 Billy, a drink from McDonald’s after we had been to a jewelery shop where he got me a $20 gift voucher for Christmas. He didnt like how long I took but I LOVED the pieces I got. He mentioned he was thirsty so I just had to remedy the dilemma after getting a lovely bracelet, anklet and necklace 🙂

  30. Day 3 for me 🙂

    This morning at church I gave the 2 children that were there due to Christmas holidays an activity pack to keep them occupied and quiet.

    They liked it and their parents were grateful. It can be stressful keeping children quiet in church sometimes 🙂

  31. Day 4 and 5 for me

    Yesterday I redirected some mail 🙂 so it goes back to where it comes from.

    I got the one lady (that turned up at my playgroup that Im running in the holidays. This is the first set of holidays I have done this for. I co-lead the playgroup in term time. Hopefully there will be more children and their mums and/or dads there next week.) a drink of coffee and a drink for her 1 year old son and a biscuit. I also got down on the floor and played with him. Just because I LOVE preschoolers. I have my bachelor in early childhood education.

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