Christmas is a time, when families come together, homes are decked out with Christmas trees decorated with tinsel, ornaments and lights, sumptuous meals are prepared and Christmas carols waft through the air as people dash about for their last minute shopping spree. In a sense it has become all about money; amidst it all, it is so easy to lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. What can you do this year that epitomizes the true spirit of Christmas?
Teach your children the gift of giving
We all love to see the excitement on our children’s faces on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning ripping the wrapping paper off their presents. The experience of receiving piles of gifts makes them believe that they must have lots of new things for Christmas to be perfect. Try to emphasize the non-material aspects of the season, such as family, fellowship and thoughtfulness.
It is not enough to just tell our kids to be charitable and kind. Some time during this Christmas season, perhaps you can find time to visit an orphanage, a homeless shelter, an old people’s home, or some of the flood victims who recently lost everything that they owned. Our own actions in supporting others will speak louder than any thing we can say. We must guide them through a program of action so that becomes ingrained into their psyche. It teaches them a powerful lesson about kindness and generosity and that their personal money or talent can have a positive effect on the wellbeing of others. It will also show them graphically how fortunate they are; they take so much forgranted.
A thoughtful gesture
The high cost of living and unemployment means that many Nigerians face a dismal Christmas and cannot afford a special meal on Christmas day. If as you shop, your trolley is overflowing with goodies, why not shop for another family that faces really difficult times and then have it delivered to their doorstep.
There are so many people in need of the simple things that so many of us may take for granted. Think about all the food that goes to waste on Christmas day and what a difference it would make to the numerous homeless people who would be glad for a decent meal and some of the clothes you don’t need.
Have you ever visited an old peoples home in Nigeria? Get a few friends, put some money together and take some gifts and treats to the elderly who have found themselves in one of some thirteen old peoples homes in the country, in spite of our extended family system. Cheer them up; the gift of happiness and good stimulating company for an old person who might be lonely during Christmas, would make such a difference.
Give back to society through philanthropy
The definition of a philanthropist is “someone who donates his or her time, money, and/or reputation to charitable causes”. By giving back to your community, religious organizations, for education, or for sports or for the arts, you afford yourself the opportunity and indeed the privilege of making a positive impact on other people’s lives. Material possessions will eventually lose their shine, but through philanthropy, one can help others, and can shape or even save lives.
Decide what causes you may want to support and then review your finances to decide how much you can afford to give. Will it be a one off donation this Christmas or is it something you can continue to commit to year on year. Narrow your choices down to a few charities or causes you feel comfortable with and do some research on them to ensure that their ethos and mission is in consonance with your core values; then choose say one or two to support. Try to follow up to see how your donation is being used. When you see the impact it is having, you will feel encouraged to give more.
Give to your alma mater
Do you often reminisce about how things used to be at your old school and how far standards have fallen? Why don’t you do something about it? With an endowed gift, you can provide permanent support for the educational institution. Your contributions will be invested and each year a distribution made to fund the program or area that matches your interest in a particular field of study. Once it is officially established, you or anyone else may continue to add to the fund at any time. You may also decide to, through the title, forever link your name or that of a family member to excellence at the college. You contribution will go a long way in improving the standards of education so badly needed in our country.
Give of your time
Even if you have had a really hard year and it sounds absurd to even conisder giving what you don’t have, focus instead of being grateful for what you do have. If you look around, you will find that there is always someone worse off than you are. Giving does not mean that you must give only financially; there are several ways to give meaningfully. The possibilities of giving of your time, experience, talent and intellect are endless and by sharing your knowledge with others you can add value to your community in this way.
As we get caught up in the whirlwind of festivity, socializing and present buying, it is little wonder that we often forget the true meaning of Christmas. How can you make a difference? If you haven’t been doing much for others before now, Christmas is a good time to start. As we celebrate Christmas, let us not forget what we have been given; God’s gift of His Son Jesus Christ. This Christmas, let us be a blessing to others.
Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private banking and wealth management. She is passionate about encouraging financial independence and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance and wealth management issues. She is married with 3 children.Find out more via www.nimiakinkugbe.com