As Christmastime draws near, there is one thing that I really do dread; the age old questioning of what the kids want in regard to their gifts.
Sure, I remember as a child, going through magazines and store circulars checking off wished-for items, cutting tiny images of toys out so I could glue them onto my letters to good ol’ Mr. Claus himself and I’m happy to be able to now share that experience with my own children. However, when asked what my kids want for the holidays from one relative, friend, or another, I find myself getting frustrated over the question. We live rather simply and while we do possess a good amount of luxuries, at the end of the day, we have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, food on the table, and one another to hold close. Could anyone really “want” anything more?
Looking back on my own childhood Christmases, I am sure that one could make the assumption that I was a spoiled child. There were always mountains of gifts for all of the children in my family and while I am sure that I loved every bit of it in the moment, in hindsight, it kind of makes my stomach turn. Folks shop for the hottest toys, the greatest fashions, and the newest goodies of the season – but for what? Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love witnessing the joy on my kids’ faces as they open their gifts come Christmas morning and we most certainly do what we can to provide them with such luxuries. However, I find it truly saddening that the aforementioned mountains of gifts have utterly overtaken the true meaning of the holidays. Of course, with big families, things can get a bit nutty with everyone wanting to take part in the spirit of giving but the excessive need to outdo one another is mindboggling. The best gifts aren’t the ones that cost the most but, instead, the ones that are thought about the most.
For what it’s worth, I asked my boys what they wanted for Christmas. Their answer, you ask?
A snack cup.
To go places.
Yes, that really is it. You see, if you take a moment to think about things, it is only when we adults coax them into other “must haves” by reminding them about what cool toy their friend down the street has or that new commercial they saw on TV the other day. But if you ask a child, and I mean really sit down and talk to a child, about what it is that they truly want, their answers will surely surprise you. They know better than anyone that the true luxuries in life are not things. The greatest gift that you could ever give a child is your time.
In our family, we do not take the excess luxuries in life for granted and our children have been raised with an underlying sense of philanthropy that lives on throughout the year and not just at Christmastime. For example, not too long ago, we enjoyed a quick dinner out at a local diner. After our meal, we asked for the check which, to our surprise, had already been paid for by other patrons. We did not know this couple nor were we able to thank them for this as they had already left. However, upon paying our tab, the anonymous couple had asked the waiter to share something with us – pass on the good deed when you can. We could’ve left that night with nothing more than some spare cash in our wallets having not needed to spend it on dinner but, instead, we left with a message that we’ve already based our lives on. Soon after this happened, my oldest and I went on a spur of the moment mommy and son date to our local coffee shop. The tip jar that sat atop the counter somehow reminded my son of that dinner and that statement. Because of this, he asked if we could “be extra nice” that day and went on to explain to the employees what he meant. As we sat enjoying our snack, he colored a picture to leave behind. On our way out, he left this at the register along with payment to go towards another’s purchase. On his note along with his doodles sat three words – “Pass it on.”
The idea behind passing on the good is a simple one. Every single day of our lives is an absolute blessing and we never know what tomorrow holds. We cannot take the time, the people, nor the luxuries for granted. There is always someone who has been dealt a lesser hand than you, someone who is going through a rough time, someone who is down on their luck, and someone that could use some help. If, today, you are one of the lucky ones able to hold your head high knowing that it is a good day, pass that on.
Share a smile, hold a hand, help a friend, and reach out to a stranger.
We do our best to live our lives as best as we can while helping others along the way. The holiday season, however, is a special time of the year where cheer and giving shine. We do what we can to help, though we can only do so much. This year, however, a helping hand reached out to me. Together, we joined forces to make the holiday season more joyous for folks less fortunate. This sweet, giving, holiday angel – it was none other than Kohl’s.
On their own mission to “Pay It Forward,” Kohl’s reached out to a number of bloggers, like myself, with one goal – to help others. They kindly provided me with a gift card to do nothing more than go shopping in effort to help make the holidays a bit happier for those around me that I deemed fit for needing some extra holiday cheer.
Of course, we opted to choose a few names off of a few local gifting trees, took items to a local homeless shelter, and dropped off some goodies for the toy drive but, on top of that, we wanted to use this opportunity to help on a more personal level. For that, there is Kohl’s. With so many great gifts to choose from and a seemingly infinite number of collections and brands to shop both online and in stores, it is easy to see why Kohl’s is THE place to go for all of your holiday shopping needs. For those of you that read here often, you’ll know that it is no secret that I absolutely love all things Kohl’s. I am, personally, a huge fan of just about everything they carry on top of the store itself. I shop there often for everything from my own wardrobe needs and home décor to, of course, gift giving.
This year, wanting to share the greatness of Kohl’s as a way to provide for others, I reached out to my own family and friends in search of those that needed some help for the holidays. The emails, phone calls, and messages soon came pouring in and, after going through everything, we chose a few different families to offer assistance to. Now, I wouldn’t want to divulge any personal information here for the masses to see so I’ll briefly touch on each recipient and their story.
One particular story that was shared with me was that of a needy family. Having recently fallen on hard times after, this family of three generations under one roof, was struggling to get through the holidays. With setbacks tying into the loss of a family member, multiple health issues including kidney troubles and even a heart attack, providing the three young children with a picturesque Christmas complete with goodies from Santa was looking near impossible. After inquiring about their needs, I found that the kids had merely asked for new clothes. Not the coolest toy or the newest tech gear available, but just comfortable new clothes that fit well.
Knowing how quickly my own children grow out of clothes, this was something that hit me on a personal level. And, of course, since many of my family’s own clothing items come from Kohl’s, I knew without a doubt that I would be able to help provide them with not only gifts for Christmas morning but, also, the gift of warmth. The clothes we wear on a daily basis are so frequently overlooked that many of us forget to appreciate their worth. Sure, we pay attention to the latest fashions and the who’s who of designers but, for many, the sheer warmth of a cozy sweater in the frigid winter weather is a luxury above all else. And thankfully, with the help of Kohl’s, I was able to provide this family with exactly that.
The Father & Son:
One of the most touching stories was that of a father and son doing their best to get by. A cosmetologist and by trade, this single father has been smacked in the face with every bit of negativity possible. After suffering complications following a recent surgery, his health quickly deteriorated which lead him to a number of additional surgeries. Thinking that things were finally beginning to turn around, again, he was knocked back with the news and his diagnosis of cancer. Having been out of work for some time due to this rollercoaster of back-to-back health troubles, every penny went into helping to keep his business afloat so that he’d be able to provide for his son.
After watching my own mother, a single parent, battle through her own cancer diagnosis, I felt the agony that this family is going through. However, with his son still being so young, I cannot even imagine how difficult this all must be for him. Much like me, this little boy finds his escape in art. His holiday wish; art items. I took my own little ones for a trip to our own local Kohl’s store and we wandered around the section of art supplies. After filling our basket with some goodies that would allow this child the ability to dive into the creative expression he desires, we were set. And, taking note from my own self, I tossed in a comfortable sweater so he can curl up on a cool winter night drawing away to his heart’s content.
I always hear about how difficult teenagers are but, from time to time, you come across the few that surprise you. Those surprising ones always seem to pop up right when and where they’re needed and that is exactly what happened here. Their parents found out about each of their son’s impending arrivals when they, themselves, were merely teenagers. They, having given these boys life at such a young age and soon learning that their youngest child is autistic, were set up for a struggle from the start. Having finally gotten to a place where they are okay in regard to life’s necessities, the boys are now nearly grown. Christmastime has never been big for them and the mountains of toys nonexistent. While many of the boys’ peers are out running amuck as most typical teenagers do, these boys can more easily be likened to their adult counterparts. They grew up quickly, both, literally and emotionally and, now, they are helping to provide for their household as the second and third “man of the house.” Though it’s not much, they deserve some acknowledgement for their kindheartedness and the adult-like responsibility qualities that they possess.
Both huge fans of all things sports; I felt it fitting to gift them each with a little something. Kohl’s has a great selection of sports gear and, for guys, it is even more fantastic. In addition to the numerous name brand sporting gear collections, many stores also offer items featuring local sports teams. This was their place to shine. My own boys and I picked out a few small goodies from here that we will soon be gifting to them just in time for the holidays.
Many good friends of mine have dedicated their lives to teaching and, as a parent, I cannot be more thankful for all of the amazing men and women that do so. One friend of mine works in a low income area and, for many of her students, the holidays are seemingly nonexistent. Many of the kids actually visit the school through winter break for the holiday food that is offered there. As much as I would love to be able to help each and every child like her students, I cannot do so on my own. However, with that being said, one of the few gifts that you can ever give to someone that truly does keep on giving is the gift of literature. The ability to read is grossly underappreciated in our country and, as simple as it may seem, there are far too many children that struggle with this. Whether it is parents not having time to read to their children at home or there just not being enough reading material in our schools to provide for every child, reading is of utmost importance for everyone regardless of your age.
When I was young, I was the “bookworm” for the longest time. I would read book after book and still crave more. I was the kid that would cry about bedtime because I’d want to finish one last chapter. Today, I don’t necessarily read as often but my want for literature has translated into writing and, one day, I truly do hope to bring my own stories to life through the pages of a book that another young child can adventure into. Reading is incredibly important to me, not only as a writer, but as a parent and I cannot imagine not being able to read to my children. Thankfully, Kohl’s feels the same way in regard to their want to provide children with reading material. Through their Kohl’s Cares collection, one of the items regularly sold is children’s books.
In addition to providing shoppers with a wonderful collection of literature for their children, one hundred percent of the net profit from the sale of these books among other Kohl’s Cares items is donated directly to kids’ health and education initiatives nationwide. This is exactly what came to mind when I was told of these children. We decided that it would be a fantastic idea to gift their classroom with some of the books from the Kohl’s Cares product line and, on top of helping to provide a happier holiday for this bunch of kids, Kohl’s would, in turn, be helping children across the nation as a way to doubly “pay it forward.”
Part of giving back is the fact that, in doing so, you are helping to better the community around you. Your friends, your neighbors, your kids’ classmates, your coworkers; you never truly know the troubles that someone could be facing. The number of folks I’ve seen just in passing that could clearly benefit from a kind gesture is rather astonishing. Whether it is someone scraping together change to purchase groceries or the child donning a winter jacket that is two sizes too small, there is always someone and, more often than not, it is these people that will never ask for a thing. We Americans are a proud people and, though a great quality to possess, it can be rather damning. No one ever really wants to share their business with the world, especially in tight knit communities and even more so if it is something negative like falling on hard times. Knowing this first hand, I wanted to be able to lend these families a helping hand in an anonymous fashion. Surprisingly enough, Kohl’s was able to help with this as well. How, you may ask? Gift cards of course!
I spoke to the school social worker about needy families in the community and, after discussing the Kohl’s Pay It Forward mission with her, I was able to present a number of local families with a gift card to help with their holiday shopping this year.
The Random Act of Kindness:
One of the things that we try to do on a regular basis is to perform random acts of kindness just because it is the nice thing to do. Earlier this year, a close friend of the family passed away rather unexpectedly and he, too, lived his life in this fashion. There was never any want for something in return; he’d just help folks at random for no reason other than to help. If you needed a shirt, he’d gladly take his own right off of his back. This is something that we’ve done as a family for quite a while now but, since his passing, the idea has been so much more pertinent in our minds. Because of this, I wanted to tie this randomness into my partnership with Kohl’s and in this mission to pay it forward. Not knowing exactly what I’d need for this part of the project, I stocked my vehicle with random products that I have been able to gift when needed.
How many times have you seen a parent pushing their baby in a stroller and in the cold weather without being properly covered? Give them a blanket.
How often do you pass by folks standing alongside the road in the pouring rain as they wait for the bus to come around? Give them an umbrella.
How many times do you take notice to the fact that someone has gone without a jacket despite the cold winter temperatures? Give them a scarf.
How often have you driven into the city only to realize that a majority of the homeless don’t even have a pair of shoes on their feet? Give them some.
How many times have you seen a parent who is clearly having a rough day with grumpy or rowdy little ones? Give the kids something to play with.
And, always, give a smile.
This holiday season, I urge you to take the time to truly appreciate everything that you do have because there are countless people that are not able to enjoy the same luxuries as you. The holidays are about so much more than a pile of gifts to tear through on Christmas morning and I am so unbelievably grateful to have the mindset where I am able to be thankful for our own family’s well-being. And, now, I am honored to have been able to partner with Kohl’s for their Pay It Forward initiative. Not only did it allow me another opportunity to share with my children the true holiday spirit and benevolent, charitable way of life but it also presented us with the ability to bring the happiness of the holidays to a number of families outside of our own.
In addition to all of the wonderful products that I was able to gift to these families on behalf of Kohl’s, I included a short letter with each. Now, I share that with all of you.
In honor of the upcoming holidays, we here at Eighty MPH Mom, hope that you can find it in your heart to share the joy of the holidays with those around you. And, remember, whether you’re shopping for those on your own gift list or helping to provide for others, Kohl’s has everything that you need and then some for the holiday season and all year around.
Be sure to follow along with Kohl’s through social media on their Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages. There, you can stay up to date on all of the latest news, great new products, sale prices, and many more fantastic ventures such as the Pay It Forward mission featured here.
And, on behalf of the entire Eighty MPH Mom team as well as all of the generous folks at Kohl’s, we wish you and yours the happiest holiday season, a very merry Christmas, and an amazing New Year!
*Randi was provided with a Kohl’s gift card to be used for purchasing products and completing her own Kohl’s Pay It Forward mission within her community. No other product or monetary compensation was received in exchange for this post. All options featured here are hers alone.