As we prepare to celebrate Christmas this year, many of us will be looking for ways to share God’s love with others.
A classic, time-enduring way to spread Christmas cheer is through gift giving.
This year, Jessica Cartwright, director of the Kingdom Kids at The Kingdom Church in Anderson, led Operation Christmas Child for the children’s ministry.
“Operation Christmas Child is a worldwide ministry of Samaritan’s Purse,” Cartwright explains. “In this specific ministry, individuals or communities can get shoe boxes and fill them up with things like toothbrushes, soap, washcloths, toys and school supplies. These things are packed into a box, the shipping is paid for by whoever is sending it and then they get sent around the world to children in need.”
Cartwright says it was important to get the kids at The Kingdom Church involved so that they could learn how to be generous.
“Teaching cultural awareness, generosity and gratefulness are the biggest reasons that I wanted the kids to get involved,” she said. “It hopefully is teaching them how to be grateful for what they do have, and instilling a generous and giving heart in them.”
Cartwright said she felt very proud of the kids and enjoyed seeing them get excited about giving to others.
“They were really excited to be able to provide Christmas to a kid somewhere else,” she said.
Cartwright says that she plans on continuing to be involved with Operation Christmas Child in the coming years, and she encourages others to participate.
“I think it would be cool if our community could come together and get more people involved,” she says.
On campus, some students have made special efforts to bring the Christmas spirit to their peers.
Kelland Sloan, a sophomore sports marketing major, has been getting his dorm room ready for the holidays.
“Smith Hall 324 is lit up and ready to go for Christmas,” Sloan says. “I have three trees, a moving reindeer and I synced it all up to music.”
Even though it’s fun to decorate, there is more to the holidays for Sloan.
“A lot of people miss the importance of what Christmas really is,” he says. “We were given a gift on Christmas Eve in the form of a child that grew up to save us all, and two thousand years later we’re still remembering that, so it’s important to give gifts because we were given the ultimate gift.
“We need to remember that it’s not about how much we spend, how many things we buy or what we get,” Sloan says. “It’s about the thought that we put into something, showing people that we care and that we’re always going to be there for them.”
Sloan’s favorite part of giving gifts is seeing his friends’ reactions.
“I love seeing the look on people’s faces when you give them something meaningful,” he says.
Although the Christmas season is a time of year when people often experience joy and excitement, it’s important to remember that it can also be a time when people feel sad or lonely.
Dr. Laura Stull, assistant professor of psychology, says that it’s important to consider that not everyone may be feeling excited during Christmastime.
“For some people, the holidays are especially difficult,” Stull explains. “For example, after you’ve lost a loved one, the holiday tends to be a reminder of that loss because there is so much focus on family or on traditions.”
Stull says that one way to tell when our friends or family may be feeling down is to look for changes in their typical behavior.
“It’s most helpful when you know the person already, and so you notice when there’s a change in what their personality usually is or in what their activity is usually like,” she says.
Some of the behavioral changes to watch for include when someone who is typically social starts withdrawing or isolating themselves, when someone stops hanging out with you like they normally would, when someone sleeps either more or less than they usually do or even when someone very plainly tells you that they’re feeling especially down.
Stull warns that “sometimes when people start feeling down, we don’t know how to respond, and so we just withdraw further, which tends to be the least helpful response for that person.”
Instead, she says that “what most people want are supportive, caring people in their lives.”
Stull says that supporting people when they’re feeling sad “can look very different depending on the person.”
For some, support “may be encouraging them to do something with you that you know would matter to that person,” she says, “like going to get coffee together, or going to an athletic event or a play on campus. That might encourage the person to get out and be around other people.”
Stull says that asking questions would also be a good idea. She suggests questions like, “Is there anything I could do?,” “What could I do to be helpful right now?,” or “Would you like to talk about it?”
Stull says that it’s important for everyone to keep in mind that “regardless of whether it is a challenging time or not, along with the holidays can come extra stress and anxiety, so it’s really important to continue to do things like sleep, exercise, take care of yourself, eat well and seek out supportive people when you need them.”