Hallmark: How to Give

This post is a Hallmark sponsored post. I am being paid by Hallmark to write it, but all writing, ideas and opinions are mine. Thankfully, Hallmark and I share the same idea–that little moments are to be celebrated and that good people, good efforts and good intentions deserve a spotlight. See Hallmark Life is a Special Occasion for more details, like them on Facebook, and/or sign up for their e-mail messages HERE.

I have this great big flaw called Overthinking. I am an expert at taking simple concepts and turning them into a confusing heap of Too Much. I’ve made many mistakes in life, exhausting efforts to build elaborate bridges to get over troubled waters when really, all that was necessary was a simple raft. My wise friend Kleidy says there’s no such thing as mistakes or failure though—it’s all just learning. This concept has been a gift—a deeper acceptance of who I am and the infinite journey toward who I want to be (which, for the record, is Who I am + Time).

I’ve been over thinking a lot of things lately, the Flaw (kind of like the Evil Claw) fed by a number of circumstances that include the following confusing heap of Too Much: making sense of people’s suffering, feeling guilty for our current non-suffering, holiday sentiment, teaching my kids gratitude, teaching my kids meaningful giving, etc. I seem to jumble up these feelings this time of year because the holidays bring it out of me. Dear friends of mine suffered a horrible family tragedy over Thanksgiving, and I can’t make sense of it. Crafting and baking and swinging on my holiday high chandelier doesn’t seem right. And I thought I didn’t know how to help. Brett and I have also been talking about what we want to do this holiday to teach our kids giving back, and we discussed adopting a family, donating toys, taking the kids to pick things out for another child, etc.—all good and meaningful things that need to be done, but still…does Lainey really get it?


In defending my writer’s block in expressing this all and explaining to my dad last night what I wanted to write, I mumbled a stream of feelings that equated to ‘Ya Totally Just Lost Me. Kindly, my dad suggested, “Okay, how about you start backwards and write one sentence.” Natalie Goldberg instructs writers to stop in the middle of typing and write simply “What I really want to say is…” I like to think of this as deconstructing that needless elaborate bridge and hopping on that simple raft.

What I really want to say is…the best and most important gift you can give anyone this holiday and any time of year—a hurting friend, your children, your spouse, the needy, the suffering, your best friend, your mom, your coworkers, and the world around you—is what you have to give. Simple as that. Taking my kids to the toy store to pick out something for a needy child is a meaningful experience, but what’s more meaningful is teaching them every single day to give of themselves—to use their talents and their words and their smile and their enthusiasm and their blessings to bring good to someone else. Shine your little flashlight, girls. Shine it bright.


I ask myself so often, “Are we doing it right? Do our kids really know how good they have it? Do they understand others’ suffering?  Will they genuinely want to help and give?” The other night, as we prepared to visit our hurting friends who lost someone dear to them, I listened as Lainey told me how she wanted to help. I smiled when she suggested that we bring hot cocoa for her friends and serve it with one extra cup so we could “pretend their cousin is still with them and she’ll always be there.” That night, as we all huddled together—the hurting and the hurting help—the simplicity of all of this made sense. We all at some point will play the role of both the hurting and the help. We all both receive the gift of kindness and bestow it. And perhaps I don’t need to overanalyze the concept of giving for my children. It’s a simple concept, a solid raft:  If we live it, they will learn it.  Share your gifts, share your heart.

This holiday, as you search for ways to help, as you hear of others’ suffering, as you find opportunities to teach your children about gratitude and giving and as you craft and bake and enjoy the things with which you’ve been blessed along the way, know that the simple and most important gift you can give is yourself. Make someone laugh, send a thoughtful text, listen to someone who needs to talk, smile in the grocery store, say thank you, make cocoa for a hurting friend, offer your talents and teach your kids to shine their little flashlights. That simple raft will travel far.


This time of year, how do you embrace the concept of giving?  How do you teach it to your children?  Do you have a story of something someone did for you that made a meaningful impact?  Hallmark and I would love to hear your response.

To see other Hallmark posts on this blog, click HERE.


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  1. Overthinker here, too. Need to shut my head OFF…

    To give back around the holidays, I raise money for a little orphan boy with Down syndrome – he’s from our son’s former orphanage. Wish I could do more….

  2. Thank you, Kelle…. For what you give, in your words, every day…. They truly are an inspiration.

  3. This was a beautiful post, and something to think about. My daughter is only one, but already she naturally knows that if someone looks sad, she can get a smile from them if she smiles, and giggling a little always works if the smile is not quite enough. I will think of ways to give this year, and hope that I can make an impact too.

  4. This post is exactly what I needed to read today. Over the break we had a friend who suffered an extremely, unexpected lost of his father. We had no idea what to do, but my husband and another friend drove to the hospital to sit with his friend and his family as they processed what was happening. My husband stayed with him until 2 in the morning and was back with him the next day. I feel as though I should be doing something more for them, but I know just being there is the best thing.

    As for teaching my daughter the true meaning of Christmas and trying to raise her to be a giving child– I’m constantly trying to think of things, but like you, will she truly understand when we go to the store to buy a gift for someone else what she doing??

    Anyways- thanks for this post, it is exactly what I needed to read as I was trying to decide what to do next for our dear friends!

  5. I think the swinging from the holiday high chandelier is what YOU bring to the world. We need it. We love it. It’s why we’re here!

    Keep sharing your joy. It makes the world a brighter place.

  6. Thanks for this post, Kelle. In the aftermath of Sandy I was overwhelmed with how to help on a huge scale, and once I realized that I couldn’t do all that, I set about making the small food and supply donations that I could make. And I hope that my kids learn by my example too. I hope.

  7. My husband, two kids and I are half-way across the country from our family and from many of our friends. My husband is working on his PhD, and we are working hard to make ends meet on this grand adventure. Last year, my then-6-month old little boy was having confusing health problems and we were in one doctor’s office after another. On the last day of November, he was diagnosed with a rare genetic syndrome, Smith Magenis Syndrome. It includes developmental delay, intellectual disability, sleep disturbances, some health concerns, and behavioral problems (self-harming). The next day as we tried to figure out what this would mean for our family and how to keep going, we received an anonymous package in the mail. It had two Christmas CDs in it and a simple message conveying love and prayers. The next day we received another, the next day another. Every day until Christmas, we received an anonymous package from one of our friends “back home,” containing little gifts for our family. Some were just little gifts from the dollar store for the kids. Others were larger– a new pair of nice pajamas for each of us. Each one was precious, the love it contained so tangible. Though far from family and friends, we truly celebrated Christmas that year, so full of love, so filled with hope and built up by the prayers of loved ones. We’ll never forget that year.

  8. A few years back (okay, 4 years back) my son was in kindergarten, we had gone out for dinner. Upon leaving the small restaraunt, my son saw a homeless man across the street laying out his sleeping bag and blankets…he stood and watched this man for a while…the man took off his shoes, and had no socks on and climbed into his makeshift bed. My son, in all of his 5 year old glory, looked up at me and said, “Momma, that guy has no socks…and he’s sleepin’ on the ground. Can I go home and get him my socks? I have lots! and he can have one of my pillows too!” So, home we went, collected his dad’s wool socks, a pillow and a few extra blankets and headed back up to where the guy was. My son was so proud when he got out of the car to give this man the socks…He told him, “I saw you had no socks, your feet must be cold!” and the guy was so thankful. Sometimes its our kids who can teach US the lessons…they catch on to what we do, and often times, see so much more than we give them credit for.

  9. Great post Kelle. Makes perfect sense :)

  10. Such a good reminder. In September, a family friend lost her son tragically in a car accident that I was in the traffic of. It weighed on me for days and weeks. But now, December around the corner, I have kept going with my life. Thank you for the reminder – and hope this reminds others – that even though for us, the suffering of knowing someone is suffering WILL pass, for them, it probably feels like yesterday. I’m going to send them a Christmas card.

  11. You, my dear, have hit the nail on the head. Giving, true giving of oneself, cannot be taught. Just like compassion, it must be modeled. It must become a way of life. And when it does, our children will simply live the lives of compassion and giving that they have grown up knowing to be true and right.

  12. Wow! I was just talking to my 3 year old about the meaning of Christmas and giving and could tell that he was not truly “getting it” yet and i started to worry. But you are right, just be the change you want to see. I recently came across a quote that i love and try to live by. “what we are speaks so loudly, that our children may not hear what we say.”
    beautiful post, Kelle. thank you.

  13. I strongly believe that things such as gratitued, giving, and being thankful are qualities we learn from day one from whom ever is raising us.Children learn this from actions. And through that learing, it becomes a part of them and it becomes a much bigger part of them then any material object they receive. If your actions genuinely show love and compassion everyday, then you have no worries that your children will pick up on it with out evening knowing you showed them something.
    I do think this time of year does serve as a good reminder of all that we have, not matter how big or small. And what we can continuely do everyday to help make the lives of others better.
    To truly do good for others is such a beautiful gift we have to offer.

  14. This Halloween my 2 yo was diagnosed with a brain stem tumor…in the aftermath and roller coaster that has followed, I have found that there is much to be said for those who simply show up and do not feel the need to fill the silence with words…who are simply present in the pain without trying to make the pain prettier. I have found more love in the simple gesture of someone taking my hand than I have in anything else….


  15. Another lovely post.

    This year is my son’s first Christmas. I am pondering what traditions to start and how to teach him the true meaning of Christmas. As he will be only 4 months old, this year I cannot wait what I do to have an impact on him but I do hope he is learning love at this very young age…the rest I too believe will be by example.

    Keep spreading your joy! It is a true gift my friend (ok I know we are not “friends” but golly I feel like we are)



  16. Kelle,
    You and your readers are special people. Just read these comments!

  17. After a very serious surgery, my husband had to go back to work even though I was still very-much incapacitaated and recuperating. One of my prayer group girlfriends came to my home and did odd jobs without saying a word…emptying the dishwasher, putting away folded laundry, mopping my floors, covering me with a blanket as I napped on the couch, dusted, made the beds…then she left without saying a word…never to be forgotten. 😉

  18. Once again, beautiful words and perfect timing.

    Thank you,

    ¸.·´¸.·*´¨) ¸.·*¨)
    (¸.·´ (¸.·`¤… Jennifer

  19. Absolutely beautiful, Kelle! This has been on my mind as well. How to teach Arya (who is 2) what it’s all about. I’m not sure what does and doesn’t sink in at this point, but I’m going to start the dialogue now and hope that over the years it will eventually make sense.

    For us, we are really, really broke this year. I was stressing over not being able buy things for people. Just the other day I came to realization that it’s not about giving things, it’s about giving love. And how the love is wrapped comes in many different ways. This year I’ll be making simple inexpensive crafts with my love. And for some people, the best I can do is give them my time. It’s still giving love, just in another form. I hope that as my child(ren) get older I’m able to pass along this thinking to them. The holiday’s are about sharing love with the people in our lives.

  20. Hi Kelle,

    Great post! I think that its always good to be reminded to be in the present and give of ourselves – sometimes, that’s all that’s needed.

    Read this beautiful article on Slate and thought of you.


  21. This year I’m doing a basket for a less fortunate family, and going to Wal-Mart and doing the Secret Angel (you pick someone’s layaway and pay it off for them)

    Every year we’ve done something.
    When we lived overseas we adopted a family in an orphanage.

    We’ve adopted a local family several years back and bought them items they needed to survive the cold.

    Every year we do something. Whether it’s something big or small… something.

    Great post!

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  23. This year for my best friend’s two girls, instead of buying them a gift we are doing a “specia day” with just me and them individually. I have selected activities specifically for each girl on different days in December. I think they will remember and appreciate my time more than a gift I picked up at Target that they don’t really need.

  24. This post really interested me, because I’m a huge believer that it is in giving that we get in touch with our community, build our self-esteem and feel a sense of purpose in life. It’s so great for one’s mental health and the smallest things make a difference.

    At the moment I have a friend who is seriously ill in hospital. She is 21 years old and has suffered so much already. All she is concerned about in the middle of this is reaching out and spreading hope and raising awareness of her condition so she can help others. She is amazing. I mean, she cannot speak, move, eat or tolerate any light or noise at the moment, and still she is thinking about how she can give. She made a video (it took her months) and she is trying to share it with people. She is my inspiration. It has made me think so much about how if she can give something to the world, I must try harder to do so too. I am channelling that at the moment into hand making Christmas presents for treasured friends, giving to charity and writing letters to people I know could do with cheering up, but I’m sure there’s more I could do.

    Jess’s video is called ‘the World of One Room’ and is on youtube, if you want to watch it. It’s only 6 minutes long.

  25. Thank you for sharing this. I love your words. I came across this today (inspired from one of my favorite author’s poems) and wanted to share! Its a short video about a beautiful girl with down syndrome that blessed my heart today!



  26. The best gift is “what you have to give.” Such a beautiful, simple sentiment! I decided some months ago, in my own bout of overthinking, that I want my epitaph to say: “she did what she could” (Mk 14:3-9).

  27. Your blog just gets better and better. You have a beautiful way with words and your writing has grown into something even more special than it was (which I didn’t know was possible). Your posts always put things into perspective for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. <3

  28. I let my 2 oldest (6,7)cut out 25 hearts and write one kind thing we could do on each one. We hung them on the tree and will do one a day until Christmas

  29. Beautiful post. Happy Holidays!

  30. We participate in giving to a food bank. I take my girls (9 and 7) with me to do the shopping and they help me fill the bags. Also, every year at Christmas, we adopt a family from one of my school sites. The girls love hearing the stories about the family we are buying for and help wrap the presents. I have really seen a heart for giving in both my girls. It makes me very proud!

  31. As a mom of three, I think the best way to teach giving and caring is by example. My teens may not listen to a word I say, but they watch every move I make.

  32. Woah, Lainey. That part about bringing an extra cup for the missing cousin is really amazing, and I think it says more than anything else that what you are trying to teach your girls, they are learning. What a sweet, simple, meaningful gesture. Like you said, it doesn’t take some grand complicated planned out action to show you care. I think what you guys did with the hot cocoa and your presence was really thoughtful, and I think what people sometimes really want during hard times like that is to be thought of but not relied on to react any particular way.

  33. During a very dark time in my life a friend took me to the grocery store. That’s it. She didn’t pay for the groceries, or bring the groceries to my house. She just shoved me into her car, and made me go about my daily life. I’m sure she had better, more enjoyable things to do that day, but she took the time to help me make my life move on. I’ll be forever grateful. So sorry about your friends’ cousin. Prayers for them are coming!

  34. I really want to inspire my daughters to live for the world around them as well as for themselves. I look forward to spearheading canned food drives and volunteering efforts with them in the future, but since the oldest is only two, what we’re doing this year is that I give her coins to put in the Salvation Army buckets at the grocery stores. Every single time we see one, I stop and have her put some change in. It’s not much, but at least it’s something she can understand right now.

  35. This has inspired me so much Kelle. Right now I can’t say anything to match the wonderful comments everyone else is leaving but thank you so much for writing this today. Beautiful, simply beautiful.

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  37. It was ten year ago last week that our 10 year old had open heart surgery. At that time, we had a 20 month old, 3 1/2 year old and 7 year old that was left at home with family members. Being 3 hours away from them during Thanksgiving and knowing the 2 youngest were sick with bronchitis was sickening. Our families and church family and friends cared for our kids in our home so their routine was disrupted as little as possible. They cleaned , did laundry and cooked meals ahead so I didn’t have to worry about things like that when we returned. They offered phone and gas cards and cash donations to help up with the cost of major surgery. Most of all they prayed for us and never failed to tell us that they were still lifting us to God months later. I think giving of your time help others greatly.

  38. For the second year in a row, I have taken my daughter who is 6 with me to ring bells for the Salvation Army. I have explained to her that not everyone has nice toys, food to eat etc..and it is a fun time for us to bond, just us. Althought standing in one place for 2 hours is a little hard on a little person, I reminded her why we were there and that we were helping so many..It’s a tradition I want to keep for years to come..I am so grateful for all that I have…Some have much more while others have far less…xoxo

  39. We have 5 children that have way more than enough. Several years ago, I was sitting in church and came up with the idea of giving to another family. In the car after church, my husband and I talked to the kids about my idea. They would each get only one gift. Then we’d all go out as a family and purchase gifts for another family that had so many needs. I saw a look flash across one little face, but all five of them agreed. So we shopped, wrapped, and delivered the gifts to this family. It had such a huge impact on them that they asked to do it again on other occasions. Sometimes we give them the money that we’d spend on gifts, and they give it. It’s purely voluntary, but they’ve done it several times.

    You’re right. They learn by watching us!

  40. such beautiful and inspiring words. your family is just lovely

  41. So glad you peeled it back to the simplicity of if you do it, they will learn it.
    They are already big givers, your two girls, because you are a giver, Kelle. You give to all of us everytime you write a post and show your beautiful photos. It’s part of your character and it’s part of Lainey and Nella’s characters too. You don’t need to worry about consciously teaching them to care so much that they give, because it will always come naturally to them.

    I love reading what comes out of your brain.
    Thanks for sharing today with us all. xx

  42. What a beautiful sentiment from Lainey about the extra cup. It’s actually the same advice someone gave my family when my grandmother died. Two months after she passed, we set an empty plate for her at our Thanksgiving dinner table, as a symbol of the fact that her spirit was and is still with us.

    You are doing it right. Don’t ever question that. Lainey’s advice is proof.

  43. When I think back on the kind things that have been done for us, they all point to the fact that someone acknowledged our circumstance.

    When I was pregnant and severely depressed, I had a friend who came over everyday after work. Everyday, for 6 months. She watched me cook dinner, bathe the two year old, clean up the house. She wasn’t there to do it for me, but to just be there. To love me when I couldn’t love myself.

    Later when we lost a pregnancy, our church gave us a book and card, acknowledging our pain and grief. To not be overlooked because it was uncomfortable.

    I also love receiving flowers for the birth of a baby. It says, “we celebrate with you!” I will never forget the bouquets and who took the time to send them.

    I think it boils down to seeing the pain, the happiness, the need…and then acknowledging that you saw it. Act on it. Whether by giving a hug, a card, a flower or the coat off your back.

  44. A few things my parents taught me:

    Mom: Always ask others about themselves. It really is a thing that is disappearing today. As a law student I found that people just don’t know how to network- why? they can’t ask people about themselves! Letting others share about who they are, what they are up to and more really shines a light on others.

    Dad: If you can’t say anything or don’t know what to say just tell someone “my thoughts are with you” true. honest and simple.

  45. I am sure this tragedy has you doubting. But no need to…..you aren’t over thinking you are over caring. Not that that is a bad thing at all. You get stuck in the thought of how things are and can’t move on. I am the same way. When you said that you wondered if Lainey really got it about giving……I thought oh yes Lainey would. So when I read what she wanted to do I wasn’t surprised. What really surprised me was about the extra cup. Wow, that girl is so special. I see what you mean about taking them to buy gift…..only promotes the commercialism. You are such wonderful parents. I hope your heart feels better about the tragedy. ((((HUGS))))

  46. Kellie….
    I have been reading this Blog faithfully ever since “Bloom” was released. I wish I’d found it sooner!! 😉
    I have learning disabilities. Or “developmental delays”, as we were told. Plus, our family was, also, touched by Down’s Syndrome. My “baby brother” will be 20 on his upcoming birthday. 20. Hard to believe that he was once as little as Nella!! ;-}
    I am continuously amazed by how much alike you and I are!! For instance, I, too, am a writer. The way you feel about your gifts are equal to that of mine!! ;-D
    Both Lainey and Nella are beautiful girls. I have always wanted blond children…. ;->
    PS. I have a head cold. So. If this post seems a little fuzzy–like my head!!–sorry!! ;op

  47. Yep. We’re in the same headspace, Kelle. I’m very sorry for your friends’ pain.


  48. Yep. We’re in the same headspace, Kelle. I’m very sorry for your friends’ pain.


  49. well done little lainey.

    i think she gets it, mama.

  50. I don’t think this is right. For starters, you are using the suffering of another to shine light on Lainey’s compassion. You are exploiting another persons pain to feature your child’s good heart. That is rubbish.

    Next, it isn’t right to say that the best gift you can give is yourself and that isn’t the message to send to children. It’s incredibly self-centered to say that the best gift you can give to anyone is yourself. That isn’t true. Some people actually need someTHING. Living a peaceful, loving life is important but shouldn’t be the goal of a compassionate life of service. Some people need clothes, food, and toys…especially at Christmas, and especially if your family is blessed enough to give away some resources. Telling your children (and your followers) that it’s all about shining your light and sharing your heart is self-absorbed. You’re essentially believing that you are enough but you should always strive to be much, much more…especially when thinking about serving.

    Thinking of the needs of the world is overwhelming, but it shouldn’t lead to settling for thinking your light is enough. It should move you to action, especially at Christmas. Buying a gift for a child solves one tiny problem, but it’s worthwhile and important to do.

    You should live a life that encourages others to emulate your joy and love, but don’t stop there. You can’t live and believe that the most important gift you can give is yourself in and of itself.

    If you are fortunate enough you must serve, donate, and share. Live your life with peace and joy and pay it back to others, with interest.

  51. Have you ever heard of World Vision Gift Catalog? You can go online (or receive their paper catalog) and donate to children and families living in extreme poverty. It shows how $20 to buy a farm animal for a family can literally change their lives. I just started the tradition of sitting down with my kids and deciding what we’re going to give every holiday season. You can finance a girl’s education, buy mosquito netting, medicine, etc. A great way to teach your children about world economics and how blessed they really are. (donate.worldvision.org)

  52. Dang that’s a good post. Spot on, spot on.

  53. Giving of yourself is really important, and that’s a great lesson that you and Brett seem to do a great job of passing onto your girls. But having worked and volunteered for years with less-fortunate families, I hope you consider (if you are financially able) to donate this holiday season as well. Yes, the spirit of the season is what is important, but to elementary school aged kids, who see their friends getting Christmas presents, they don’t understand why Santa doesn’t come to their homes too. And it’s program like adopt-a-family that make it possible for every child to enjoy the wonder of the holidays. Also, remember the parents in your giving. Everyone wants to buy toys and baby clothes, but these parents work hard and go without so their children can have more. It’s nice for them to get a new pair of gloves or a sweater or perfume. One of the most important things in work like this is to remember to give with dignity. Many programs invite the parents to “shop”, so they can have the joy of picking out their kids’ santa presents. As for Lainey understanding, she obviously comprehends compassion, and maybe the larger issue of “why we have so much and they have so little” is a bit complex for her age, she can certainly understanding the importance of giving back.

  54. I find it distasteful that you used a sponsored post for which you are paid (on top of your regular sponsors) to discuss a friend’s tragedy. As the above poster said, you used that very devastating instance to highlight your daughter’s compassion. Did you not learn from the post about the sledding accident that this is not appropriate blog fodder?

    Also – we all know you’re lovely, but no, your presence is not enough for people with real problems. Please rethink adopting a family for Christmas or volunteering. Just because Lainey might not “get it” doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do.

  55. May I just say that part of giving is receiving. I know so many people who want to help others, but refuse ABSOLUTELY refuse, help when they really need it. Part of giving, I believe, is also allowing others the blessing of serving you. If you only want to serve and never be served, I say you’re being selfish. If you only want to be the good guy, the hero, the one who swoops in and saves the day…then that’s prideful. Let someone see you vulnerable and let them have the good feelings that come with knowing they helped you. We will all experience times of lean and times of plenty…times where the well is full and times when it’s empty. Do the giving when you can give, but make sure to do the receiving when you need it too.

  56. Hey Kelle. I’ve been reading for so long and so rarely comment – but this topic is so close to my heart. I have two little girls and I so deeply want them to get the importance of serving and loving others. Mine were 2 and 5 last year and they got it when I started “light em up” – a simple random acts of kindness program. We did many simple things you talked about and it was contagious. They asked for more and we kept going. We shared it on my blog and it’s been pinned over 30K times. We’re doing it this year and it’s going bananas again. Simple easy ways for moms to take simple yet super innovative ways to show kindness to others in a way the captures the hearts of their kids. They CAN give the gift of themselves through these little acts and serve others. Keep on Kelle. You’re a great mom and they will do all of these things and more by watching you and imitating. Here is the link if you’re interested. I’d be honored if you’d share. http://lillightomine.com/light-em-up-12—the-back-story.php

  57. Kelle, this is truly one of my favorite posts you have ever written. Thank you. Your words inspire me.

  58. Well said. I’m in the same situation… watching many around me suffer, and trying to figure out what I can do. I’m a teacher and mom and I try to do what you said. I actually just has that talk with my class today… about just doing simple little things that can really brighten someone’s day. I’m hoping my examples and words sink in…

  59. I guess I’m in the minority, but I don’t think a child Lainey’s age is too young to be taught about her relative privilege to the rest of the world, and to talk about and show her tangible ways to go and help them. Shining a light from within is all well and good, but I would spend equal (or greater) time focusing on how to help people in need in your community. Adopting a family for Christmas is wonderful. Buying a goat or a cow for a family in a developing country can be literally life-saving. I have been letting my kids pick out what kind of giving back we do since they were very young. I don’t know. I appreciate some of this sentiment, but I would encourage you guys to still sit down to Lainey and explain how she too can help the poor, the jobless, the homeless, and the hungry people in the world. That’s just my opinion. Children can understand (and should be taught to understand) that if they have food, shelter, and are being educated, they are so lucky. But others aren’t so lucky, so let’s pick a way to go help those who need it. Please consider volunteering in your community with Lainey, or adopting a family, or a telling her about things like Heifer International or Kiva.org, in a way she can understand. It’s never too early to teach our kids how they can use their privilege to help those less fortunate.

  60. No, that’s not how to give. You give by sharing your bounty. You have a platform from which you could have encouraged others to give until it hurts and you didn’t – that’s shameful. You should want to help the less fortunate whether or not your children “get it” They learn to get it by having it modeled to them and your oldest is certainly old enough to hear the message that there are other little’s out there who have much less than she enjoys. You, Kelle, are old enough to get it. You could adopt a family for the good of your own heart. You could work to make a suffering family’s home cozy because it’s just the right thing to do. Since you skipped the opportunity to do so I will share some ways to give. My blog isn’t sponsored, I don’t have a book deal, I’m single and supporting myself on minimum wage but I can always find ways to give that help make a child or family’s Christmas a little magical. For starters, every time I pop into the supermarket I purchase at least one thing for the food bank. It might be a bag of dog kibble that’s on sale or tuna – but I drop at least one thing in the food bank box on my way out the door. When I go shopping all of my change gets dumped into the Salvation Army kettle. For a few months before the holidays begin I buy a few extra little items at the dollar store for toy donations and I set them aside for donation. A few bucks here and there on construction paper, crayons, kid-themed bubble bath/toothbrushes/toothpaste – fun but useful stuff. Keller, I’m not saving the world and I’m not making an example of myself to my children but I’m doing what I can to bring some of the magic of the holiday season to children who didn’t get as lucky as yours. I give my time and energy in 101 different ways but I also take money out of my pocket and spend it on kids who aren’t very blessed. It’s the Christmas thing to do. Since you couldn’t be bothered to stress it I will – spend whatever you can afford to give a child a magical Christmas. PS If you can afford it, give bigger gifts that keep on giving like pjs,hats, gloves etc.

  61. I have been thinking about this myself lately too. And honestly giving and loving and caring and being thankful is in our nature. and i don’t think it’s something that really needs to be taught but remembered. i too wanted to take my son to the store and have him pick out a gift to donate. he wasn’t thrilled about the idea. he said he just wanted something for himself (he’s 3) so he really doesn’t get that concept. i started to worry, i thought to myself i have failed him already. but then i remembered that when my son sees anyone cry or sees anyone looking sad his soul reaches out to them. he will look at you so intently and his eyes gloss over, he feels what you feel. he will place his hand on you and look at you with such understanding. he will kiss and hug you with such fierce love. my son knows how to give. he knows the pain and knows we all belong to each other. he wants to help. he wants to make you feel better. i didn’t teach him that. that’s who he is. i think all of us are special gifts to each other. everyone unique in their gift giving. really we do live among angels. we are them. i don’t feel bad about others suffering anymore. everyone is on a beautiful journey and everyone has ups and downs. even in the suffering there is much to learn. the suffering itself is a gift. death can be earth shattering, literally. but it’s a part of life. a cycle come full circle. you are an amazing gift to this planet kelle! you brighten up so many of our souls. you give and give and give with each word you type out. you deserve everything that you have. don’t ever feel guilty about that. we all deserve what we have. and for those that need more that’s what the rest of us our here for. to give our gifts accordingly. just like you said. some of us say hello, some of us bake cookies. some of us wipe the tears away. some of us can give on a material bases because they are blessed in that way. i just really trust that life is beautiful and that everyone will be okay. things are perfect as they are.

  62. Like so many others, I’m encouraged by your words. Last night, I found evidence that my 4-year old daughter stole three containers of candy from a toy store. Tonight, we took her there to confess and pay for them with money from her piggy bank. The store owner couldn’t believe we returned. I’ve been struggling all day with how to teach our kids to do the right thing or show consideration and as tempted as I am to take her to the police station, I have to believe that she’ll follow our example, learn from this and make different choices next time.

  63. We have an awesome shelter in downtown fresno called the poverello house. It is a women’s shelter/clinic, a health clinic, in one building they serve food… hundreds of thousands of meals a week. It’s all non profit and volunteer based. I volunteer at the clinic their as a nurse but my friend brought her daughter who is 7 with her to help serve food. Something my mom also did with me when I was young. I can tell you it is very eye opening for a young person to serve soup to the poor. And not in a negative way either. It gives them a chance to see with their own eyes… these people don’t have clothes… Or a home. And what do I have? Also… a huge memory I have from my childhood is anytime anyone asked my mom for money… she would ask them what they were hungry for and then go buy them a meal.

  64. Also… I like this because it makes it REAL. Kids are all about what they can see, touch, feel (the seams on the sock thing!). And I really like that quote… People won’t remember what you said or did but they’ll remember how you made them feel. Giving your kids a real opportunity to not only see up close how REAL people in your community live and struggle but how to give to them and help them and then this also teaches them gratitude on the reciprocal. I think to just say… we’re buying these presents for a family in need isn’t enough. How does she define “in need”. Also it might help along the way to figure out what kind of learner your kids are.

  65. This comment has been removed by the author.

  66. Hi Kelle,
    This post resonated with me. Not simply because it’s a week past thanksgiving, but because giving and what giving from the heart truly looks like has been on my mind this year.I was blessed to spend 3 months in Kibera, Kenya, the second largest slum in Africa. while there I taught reading and art/bible classes in a school. As I continue to reflect on my time there one thing that has recently come to mind is that even though the children and staff are physically impoverished–they gave me SO much.
    Each day the staff taught me about giving security and hope. They provided a safe environment for the children who would have been left to wander the streets. The teachers also demonstrated a diligence and joy working to empower the children with education and faith.
    And the kids, oh those precious souls who captured my heart with their smiles–they are the ones who taught me about giving. They gave their love, their joy, their curiousity, their hope. These kids taught me that giving is what life is about–its not the amount but the heart. The children shared what little food they had with each other and joyfully wanted to share with me–someone who cannot begin to understand hunger.
    What I’m trying to say :-) is that giving doesn’t stem from our pockets and assets–rather it flourishes out of gratitude and joy. Gratitude for the gifts we have and for the person we share them with. It is a way of acknowledging the recipient’s value and affirming their soul. And boy, does giving stem from joy…joy is the roots and the water. Giving is a vicious cycle.. once you start a new world opens up to you…the best part, you don’t necesarily have to travel across the world like I did–simply look up, look around, take a step, give a smile, and share.

  67. Hi, We are from South Africa, so we experience a lot of poverty here. We live in a ‘normal’ suburb, just like you, but we see poverty on every corner – mothers with babies o their back begging, old men, etc. Its very hard. What we do have for many children from orphanages (most of their parents having passed away from AIDS), or abandoned – is called ‘Santa’s Shoe boxes’ – where you (you can do as many boxes as you want) – fill up a shoe box with all things such as toothbrush,toothpaste/washcloth/ necessities as well as something to play with, something educational,clothes, some sweets, for Christmas Day, whatever you can squeeze into that box :) And then its decorated beautifully – and collected from schools etc (they are all part of these initiatives)And in this way the children learn to give- and they LOVE giving back and are so proud to do so! – In this way, many orphaned children receive a gift on Christmas Day. So many people take part in this and I think they have well over 90 000 boxes collected. Its so easy for one person to do – and means so much to that child. They have different age groups as well as boy/girl – so the gifts are all age -appropriate. South Africa really has many many poverty stricken areas, but there are so many generous people who do so much to organise these charities .
    Thankyou as always for your beautiful blog x

  68. I think you hit the nail on the head here. Giving of ourselves. I have seen so many people having troubles thinking that things will make it better when actually, friendship and community in love heals!!

  69. What a beautiful post, Kelle. And, it all made sense. Absolutely what I needed to read to start my day off even brighter. Thank you!

    I am so sorry for your friends who are hurting right now. The fact that Lainey had such an amazingly thoughtful idea regarding the extra mug was absolutely beautiful and tells so much about what you and Brett have been teaching by example.

  70. Writing openly on a public blog means that certainly things you write can be misinterpreted or that people won’t agree with what you say. I’m learning to embrace that and dare greatly regardless. How quiet and ineffective all of our voices would be if we let the way others’ perceived our words keep us from writing them.

  71. been making a lot of SHINE cuffs lately. it’s so true..we just need to give of ourselves every single day…that is the greatest gift of all. now follow through!

  72. just read through some of the not so nice ones…sorry friend. i know your heart and it’s pure and good. please don’t get discouraged. you are a good good momma…and a beautiful writer. there will always be people who make it their job in life to be joy stealers.

  73. Your blog is like my blog church. Every post you write, seems to somehow always address something I have been thinking about or struggling with. So I just wanted to say thank you for what you do.

  74. You inspire me so much. My son is 2, but I read your words and it’s almost like you are reading my mind somehow. I can only hope that I am a good enough teacher and role model for him to learn these important things. Thank you for writing so beautifully so that I can have the joy of reading your blog and being inspired every day.

    Happy holidays to you and your beautiful family.

  75. Kelle,
    Thank you for the beautiful, inspirational words from your heart. Your giving nature shines through everything that you say and do!

    Sending my special love to you today for being such an example to so many of us!

    PS Your photos continue to be a highlight!!! You have a talent for capturing so much emotion in each picture!

  76. As always, your words are right on target for me. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea of giving this time of year, and to aim for “greatness.” While I’m certainly not opposed to greatness, as you said, sometimes the simple things we do are actually our best gifts. Thanks to you for the gift of this space and your words. I will try to stay mindful of this idea over the next few weeks (and after too!).

  77. I love this post.

  78. When my youngest daughter was born we found out that she had a rare genetic syndrome called Fraser Syndrome. There were so many birth “defects” and health issues that it was hard to make sense of everything the multitude of doctors were telling us. It was often said, “If she makes it through the first week…if she makes it through the first few months…” But we were so overjoyed because she was ALIVE and FIGHTING and OURS! After coming home from the NICU it was hard for friends and even family to know how to respond…some pulled back and didn’t say anything or didn’t come around. While I totally get it…it still hurt. Then after we’d been home a few days our newly assigned Infant Development Consultant came by. I was nervous, expecting an overload of information. Instead she came, bearing a Starbucks coffee for me, some donuts for the big sisters, and a heart of love. All she wanted to do was snuggle our new baby and share in our joy. A few days later she sent a card with the simple words hand written, “Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful, little girl.”

    It’s 6 years later, and that little girl is still our fighter, still our joy, and the best thing that ever happened to our family. Thinking back to what that dear friend and consultant did in love for us, the tears still spill over….and so does the gratitude.

  79. When my youngest daughter was born we found out that she had a rare genetic syndrome called Fraser Syndrome. There were so many birth “defects” and health issues that it was hard to make sense of everything the multitude of doctors were telling us. It was often said, “If she makes it through the first week…if she makes it through the first few months…” But we were so overjoyed because she was ALIVE and FIGHTING and OURS! After coming home from the NICU it was hard for friends and even family to know how to respond…some pulled back and didn’t say anything or didn’t come around. While I totally get it…it still hurt. Then after we’d been home a few days our newly assigned Infant Development Consultant came by. I was nervous, expecting an overload of information. Instead she came, bearing a Starbucks coffee for me, some donuts for the big sisters, and a heart of love. All she wanted to do was snuggle our new baby and share in our joy. A few days later she sent a card with the simple words hand written, “Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful, little girl.”

    It’s 6 years later, and that little girl is still our fighter, still our joy, and the best thing that ever happened to our family. Thinking back to what that dear friend and consultant did in love for us, the tears still spill over….and so does the gratitude.

  80. Several years ago, my husband and I decided to stop trying to conceive one more child, we were through with miscarriages and emotional roller coasters. We were happy with our two healthy children, but we felt our journey in parenting wasn’t complete. We registered to be foster parents with the thought that eventually we’d adopt. Our biological children were about 8 & 5 when this began, old enough to help with foster kids and old enough to learn about giving and receiving. This journey has also been a roller coaster ride for all of us, but it has been a priceless ride that will stick with us forever. Our kids have learned, more than we could have imagined, about love, patience, kindness, giving, sacrifice, despair, comfort, family, oneness, and so much more. It’s hard to “teach” our kids giving, it’s much more effective to “demonstrate.” Our kids watch us–our moods, behaviors, attitudes, thought processes, and they begin to see what really lies within our hearts. Our kids are 16 &12 now, we’ve adopted a boy who is 3, and we can already see how the seeds we planted in their tiny hearts so long ago are blossoming right before our eyes. They know about giving and they love to give, it’s amazing. When we asked the kids if it would be okay to take in a homeless mom and her 10 yr daughter back in Sept, our children didn’t have to think about their answers…they both said, “why wouldn’t we take them in!” This is our story it’s unique to us, but it shows just one way we can reach our kids and how our kids are always watching what we do.

    You are showing your kids what giving back is all about, you are demonstrating through your love, your words, your thoughts, your actions each day. The way you are giving to Nella and the DS foundation will speak volumes to Lainey, she will learn that from you (it seems she already has). :) Nella also already seems (I’ve never met them, but I can tell by what you post) to have a soft heart, a sweet spot for babies and for her sister. You are doing an amazing job raising your girls, they are rich in blessings from you both, they will blossom and grow because of what you’re providing them with. You demonstrate patience, kindness, thoughtfulness, and love through your crafts, photography, “girl time,” passions, nature walks, beach trips, and more! They know your heart and if you’re looking closely, you’ll see that their heart is following in your footsteps.

    Thanks for the beautiful post.

  81. I read the following passage and quote yesterday. I felt it deeply. I am not sure it applies to this post per say, but feel inclined to share it with the hopes it resonates with you when you need it most. “If i so choose, i can regard everything that happens in my life as a gift from which i can learn and grow. Today i will find something positive hidden within a difficult situation and allow myself to be grateful. I may be surprise at how much a little gratitude can help.” “When it gets dark enough, you can see the stars”- Charles A. Beard. I whole heartedly agree with one of your other readers that we can learn so much from our kids. My kids teach me everyday. Don’t overthink too much, you might miss out on the small things

  82. We have talked to our son since he was able to talk, about what it means to give, to serve. The older he gets (he’s seven), year-round we talk to him about the many, many blessings we have and how there are many boys and girls out there that don’t have a roof over their head or food to eat except what they get in school. We never sugar coat it. We don’t ever want him to think that what we have, what we are able to give him is to be taken for granted. We sponsor children abroad through Christian organizations and we give to the less fortunate. We want him to know that that’s what we should be doing. That’s what God has called us to do. This year, without any prompting from us, he asked if he and the neighbor boy could take up a collection for “kids who don’t have much”. It was so awesome to see him want to give something to someone who doesn’t have much. This is an age where it’s all about them. Kids just naturally live in a “me” world because that’s all they know. But it was nice to see that from our example, he decided he wanted to give too.
    We ended up calling our local Salvation Army and adopting a family and also two other children for Christmas. We will not be taking up a collectin, but we will go out and Christmas shop for these children and hopefully make their Christmas a little brighter. We can’t feel badly for what we have been blessed with. We need to be grateful, and thank God every day. But we do have a responsibility to help and serve others that aren’t as fortunate.
    Thank you for this post, Kelle. I hope it brought some things to light for those who may not have thought of helping someone this Christmas.

  83. “Dare greatly regardless”? Does that mean attracting even MORE sponsors I am guessing? Or delivering more cocoa cups? That is very admirable indeed.

  84. thank you Kelle, this was exactly what I needed to read today. My thoughts are with your friends who are hurting.

  85. “I ask myself so often, “Are we doing it right? Do our kids really know how good they have it? Do they understand others’ suffering? Will they genuinely want to help and give?””

    I guess just ask yourself how YOU understood others’ suffering. If compassion is part of your nature, and they see it often; they are going to seamlessly understand.

    :) Happy Holidays.

  86. I like your words. I think kids learn best by parents modeling. Lengthy, ethical explanations entirely unneeded. Just love in action.
    Be well,

  87. so good. i am living here in Lebanon and really trying to serve and help the syrian refugees…but even in all my longing to help them…there is so much need. So just wanting to help the ones in front of me. be loving to the ones i can touch. =)

  88. I think its important to find somewhere to help that is truly meaningful to you, and then the giving comes from the heart! My girls and I take toys to the Ronald McDonald House here in Missoula (I stayed 8 weeks at a RMH in Seattle) but instead of just dropping off the toys we go in and play with the children in the house. We get to actually meet and give love to the families that are on a difficult journey. It means so much more to our family this way!

  89. Recently a family member went out of her way to look at me in the eyes and say “I just want you to know I think you are a great mom.” It was a simple and kind thing for her to say to me, but it made me smile for the rest of the day. Although I may know I’m a good mom, having someone acknowledge it was nice. I hope to do this type of acknowledgement for the important people in my life because every now and then everyone likes to feel that their hard work is noticed!

  90. I love your blog and the questions and sentiments you shared, but it seems really in poor taste to discuss your friend’s tragedy on your paid, sponsored blog post. Imagine how you might feel if tragedy struck your family and someone you knew wrote about your loss in a Hallmark-sponsored blog post.

  91. the best and most important gift you can give anyone…is what you have to give.

    Oh mama I love that! And believe it to my core. It’s ALL about intention and appreciation.


  92. I love this post. For those commenters having an issue with Kelle writing about her friend’s tragedy on a sponsored post, get over it. She is being paid to write whatever she feels like writing related to the topic. It’s pretty simple. If you don’t like it, don’t read. No need to spread negativity on such a positive blog!

  93. I appreciate this post. “Go with your gut, follow your heart, use intention…” – this post just reminded me to do all of the above. Sometimes I feel like if I can’t do something grandiose for someone it won’t be good enough. Then I am reminded by our own dear neighbors last night (they have no idea how touched we were).
    They knocked on the door at 7pm, kids in tow, asked us if we wanted to take a ride on the golf cart they rented to go see Christmas lights in the neighborhood (we go crazy during holidays here). They rented it for the month and were perfectly happy to wait for us to throw a jacket on our 2 year old so she could experience the show. We can’t afford a golf cart rental. We can barely afford our mortgage. They were so welcoming, gracious, sincere, joyous…it was huge for me.

  94. what’s with the negative nancy’s hatin on your encouraging words here? so sour! yikes.

    you are fantastic, and have moved me to change the way I view certain aspects of life. this post is no exception :) giving yourself. that’s SO big and SO needed. we need to love on others, period. I hope to be a momma like you (and my own ;)) when I have littles.


  95. Kids understand more than we think they do. My 4 year old is now OBSESSED with homeless people – I told him just one time about how we need to be thankful we have a house to keep us warm and now he goes on and on about people who don’t have homes. “And they don’t have beds to sleep in or blankets, so they have to cover up with their coats to keep them warm. I want them to come over and sleep at our house. They can have my bed. I think they would like to have a sleepover because they don’t get to have those.” (All quotes from his Thanksgiving feast he had at preschool. His teacher was tearing up at all this!)

    I did love this post because sometimes we don’t realize the greatest things we can GIVE in life are free.

  96. Happy December, my friend!

    And, Yes, I will say it again, I don’t believe in “mistakes or failures” they are learning opportunities. I believe in growth, in possibilities.

    Thank you for sharing Nella’s ballet and Lainey’s winter terrarium priceless moments. :)))

    Love your Bloom gifts ideas. They will definitely make someone smile…

    As I understand your post, any beautiful gift that comes from a place of Love is a Heartfelt Gift. Whatever we can give at anytime. Some people may need a little joy, encouraging words, a hug, our healing presence, a light to brighten their day. I feel we can give the best of ourselves by being who we really are, by being in touch with the goodness in us.

    Checked out the link to Miss Miggy’s beautiful blog, on your yesterday’s “Bloom for Christmas” post. Wishing Raphael finds his forever home very soon!

    xOx Much Love~

    “Make a gift of your life and lift all mankind by being kind, considerate, forgiving, and compassionate at all times, in all places, and under all conditions, with everyone as well as yourself. That is the greatest gift anyone can give.” ~Dr. David R. Hawkins

  97. So inspiring as usual! I look forward to your posts specially your hallmark ones. They have a way of putting things into perspective:) Keep being this awesome!

  98. Oh, Kelle, thank you for your beautiful words.

    And there – you just did it! – giving of who you are with your thoughts and photographs and the way you pour your heart out. Thank you!

    I’m so sorry for your friends. I know that Lainey learned just what to do from her loving and gentle mama – to be there and listen and remember.

    Thank you for sharing your family with us.

  99. Catching up here after a week away from technology……It makes me sad that people try to bring you down and turn your words to fit their swords and be so blasted critical….. when really what you do brings so many more of us up and for those of us that are picking up what you are laying down, I thank you. I get it. It is good. Merry Christmas Hamptons!

  100. I share all of your concerns about whether I’m doing enough to teach my girls gratitude and caring about others less fortunate. But just like Lainey, when our best friends lost someone so dear to them, my miss 6 decided we should take them muffins. She’d just been in her room alone, and she came out and told me we should take them some muffins because that would make them feel better :) Maybe, just maybe, we’re doing enough. I’m sorry for your friends loss x

  101. WOW!! That post was awesome and exactly what I needed to hear to get me back into the “real” meaning of Christmas.

    Your post about giving yourself to others really hit home. My mother used to always tell me the most valuable thing you could give someone is your time. And that still rings true today. I’m grown with a family of my own so time is limited, but I give it freely and abundantly to those I love and those who need it. Listening to problems, babysitting for a friend, volunteering, etc. all that goes along with time, and if you really love something your time is very well spent when given.

    I’m sorry for your friends loss and I think Laney’s idea was amazing! The mind of a child is a wonderous thing.

    Can’t wait to hear more of your holiday stories, crafts, etc.

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