The Gift that Keeps Giving

by Lori Ciccarelli-Stotko, MPS

Give others all that is alive in us – our interest, understanding, our knowledge, our humor, everything in us that’s good. In doing so, we enhance the sense of aliveness in others while enhancing our own. When we give, we get a ‘heightened vitality’ of what it means to be human,” – Erich Fromm, psychologist and author

As I watch the snow falling outside my window, I get a warm feeling inside. I’m reminded of the holiday season; the Christmas spirit.

What is the Christmas spirit? What comes to mind immediately for me is the spirit of giving. When I google the “spirit of giving,” information points to the holidays; the spirit of Christmas. I can hypothesize that the Christmas spirit is the spirit of giving. What does the “spirit” have to do with this?

Spiritual Intelligence – Spiritual Awareness

In prior blogs, I have focused on  elevating emotional intelligence (EQ) which equates to social competence; a challenge for our kids on the autism spectrum or other special needs because the concept is very abstract. I shared tools to help make the concept more concrete. But what about spiritual intelligence? Spiritual awareness? We talk about IQ and EQ; but SQ? Not much is offered on spiritual intelligence.

We must not confuse spiritual with religious. Religion is more cognitive (head), more about tradition and rituals, or organized beliefs. I believe “spiritual” is from the heart; our core, our soul. When we hear about the “heart” of an organization, or the “heart” of our culture, we are talking about the core values; beliefs that are held deeply giving meaningful purpose. Integrity. Character. Respect. Dignity. Virtue. Moral excellence. Honor. Goodness. Purity. Compassion. Forgiveness. Altruism.

Is it our conscience? A heightened awareness? As Fromm puts it, “All that is alive in us!” How do we teach these very “abstract” core values to our kids on the spectrum? Let’s make them more concrete or more relatable.

Creating a Culture

How can we teach our kids the spirit of giving? Let’s create a culture. A culture of giving. When I was a teenager back in the ‘70s, my family “adopted” a Vietnamese refugee family for the holidays. Our family of six decided to forego the Christmas-gift exchange between us and the elaborate traditional Christmas dinner for a night of celebration with our new adopted family of four. We cooked up our favorite “pigs in a blanket” accompanied by baked beans and Christmas cookies. Then we proudly presented our beautifully wrapped gifts to our guests reflecting our “gift to give” showing our spirit of giving.

Decades later, my siblings and I reminisce that this “experience” was the best Christmas ever. My parents deliberately created an “experience” we will never forget. When I think back, I get that warm feeling inside. A Christmas-spirit feeling. A giving heart.

 How can we create “experiences” that contribute to a “warm feeling inside” to help our kids understand the gift of giving? We need to be intentional, deliberately creating traditions or routines not just for the holiday season but all year long. Make “giving” a part of life, a lifestyle.

Make it Purposeful

From Teaching Kids the Spirit of Giving, Parenting 101, author Julie Watson Smith shares these ideas:

  1. Incorporate “giving” into activities your child already participates in like play-dates, church, or scout-troop activities. Sing at a convalescent hospital or collect canned food donating to the local food bank or food drive.
  2. Acknowledge the little things they already do like when they smile at someone, or share a friendly word.
  3. Your child can clean out her closet or toy box and give to those in need.
  4. Let your child choose a cause to support. Make it a family affair.

Author Tess Marshall of The Bold Life states that you can give “yourself” by sharing your talents, a visit, a phone call, a card, and the gift of laughter which brings health and happiness to others. Giving affection or encouragement can be life changing. Even an invitation to do something is a gift of giving.

Use Trigger Words

In my previous life as an elementary school teacher, I used trigger words. During the school year if one of my students was being a little stingy or self-centered, I would have fun by saying “Where’s that Christmas spirit?” My students would giggle because it wasn’t Christmas time, but would associate it with the “gift of giving.”

I believe what we give we receive back ten-fold; blessings. A transformation of the heart. The effects of giving are very beneficial spiritually, emotionally and psychologically creating a warm feeling inside. The Christmas spirit. Fromm states it beautifully, “When we give, we get a ‘heightened vitality’ of what it means to be human.” Humanity.

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