Our Little Candle

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” The Buddha

One of my best Christmas decisions came, not from peace and goodwill toward men, but through frustration and fatigue.

I have nine grandchildren whose needs (and many of their wants) are bountifully met. For many years Christmas buying was an obstacle course of avoiding the respective lists of Santa and their parents in order to buy each child the perfect gifts, which would be fairly even in cost and totally equal in panache.

Many years ago we changed our Christmas.

Nowadays, every grandchild gets a small gift: a magazine subscription, a gift card to ITunes, or a pair of coveted earrings.  And then they choose what charity will receive the financial equivalent of their larger gift.

I remember my first warm glow from the new gifting.  The kids were getting in the groove of charitable giving and my oldest grandson had chosen the Men’s Gospel Mission, a shelter for the homeless.  His little brother (who didn’t quite get that our next stop was to buy gifts for the Wish Tree with HIS money) went with us to the mission.

At the reception desk we each had a different agenda. The older boy (the donor) insisted, “I want my money to go for food.”

I was insistent that the clerk understand that this was not a donation to be taken lightly. It was in lieu of the boy’s own Christmas gift.

And his little brother was mystified, “Did you really just give your present away to them? When I’m your age I don’t want to do that.”

My older grandson replied, “When you’re my age, (9 years old), you’ll know how good it feels.”

This year, that younger brother, now 17 years old, is giving his money to a charity providing service animals  – (animals are one of his passions , the other is climate change) – to handicapped children.

Each child has a different passion.  Three are giving their gifts to food banks this year to help provide for the homeless and hungry.

Syrian refugees are on the top of one grandson’s list and another is repeating his donation to a public education program that helps underserved populations.

Most of the kids have ongoing Kiva accounts. It’s a fallback they love because they can make loans all year long.   They pore over the loan requests knowing they are truly changing the life of someone in Kenya, Bolivia or Tajikistan. Some who have traveled give loans to people in countries they have visited.  From the confines of their homes in the U.S. they have the capacity to help a man buy a motorcycle for his transportation business in Uganda, or to build a roof over a single mother’s head in Mexico.

There are nine young philanthropists in the world because of our family Christmas.  And I get a warm glow of satisfaction knowing that my privileged grandchildren understand that not everyone lives a life as easy as their own, They experience giving as a true reward.

And my shopping is easy.  I no longer buy wrapping paper and needn’t brave the crowds on Black Friday.

Peace and goodwill reign in my candle-lit corner of the world.


Note:  This piece was created for and published by the website Vision and Verb (http://www.visionandverb.com),  a global gathering of women of this age, on December 20, 2011 and has since been modified.


  1. This is the true meaning of the season and a wonderful lesson to learn so young. Reading this made me smile. Kudos to all your grandchildren; they are very special people, as are you for giving them this gift.


  2. I loved this so much I shared it on Facebook. See how much you can learn about your grandchildren when you give them the chance to help someone else and how empowering it feels for them.


    • Thanks, Love. Yes, I am totally impressed with these grandchildren of mine. They have stepped up to the giving plate in a huge way. I just hear this a.m. how excited one of them is that his Kiva Loan is being paid back so that he can re-loan. (Thanks for your ongoing support, too.)


  3. This is wonderful! I loved the grandson who answered, “When you’re my age…” Aren’t grandchildren the best (and funniest) teachers?
    Part of our grandchildren’s Christmas is a donation in their names to The Heifer Project. This year our 8year-old granddaughter gave baby chicks to a farmer in Uganda, and our 7year-old grandson gave ducklings. The only problem was that they both wanted to help take care of the gifts…and name a couple of them, too.
    Thanks so much for sharing this story and reminding us all of the power of planting seeds!


    • Thanks, Marylin. We have done Heifer Project in the past, too. It’s wonderful to begin in their early years, isn’t it?


  4. […] Because I was raised in a family that didn’t celebrate Christmas except as a religious holiday, gifts have never been the most important part of the season for me. And the older I got the more I became convinced that we could all do better to comprehend our personal privilege and fortunate birth by giving to those in need. Several years ago we changed the tradition to match my core values. You can read about it here. […]


  5. Brilliant idea and I intend doing something similar for all the people to whom I regularly arrange for gifts to be delivered on special days. I don’t do that on say Diwali but usually on birthdays.


    • Most of us are in a place of substantial privilege. I feel much more satisfied giving money to those who need help. I’m pleased that so many of my grandchildren are now able to look around and see the world around them from a different place.


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