Episode 172- Our New Christmas Eve Tradition

So today is Christmas Eve, Happy Christmas Eve, everybody. And this is the most fun day that we have as a family. And it’s the day that our kids start looking forward to more than Christmas, believe it or not. And this is done intentionally and is done because Elizabeth and I wanted to take the focus off of the relentless pursuit of more stuff that they’re going to get for Christmas. So a couple of years ago, the kids were getting really just very into their gifts that they’re gonna get for Christmas and their Christmas lists and what grandma and grandpa are going to bring them on with Santa is going to bring them. And we just sat down and said, this is too much. Not only is it too much stuff, which they don’t need, but it’s too much self-involved thinking about what gifts that they’re going to get. So we changed the pattern around.

We said instead of what you’re going to get, I want to know what you want to give. And until that point, they hadn’t looked at Christmas as much of a giving holiday as a getting holiday. I mean it’s the season of giving, right? Not the season of getting at least it’s supposed to be. So we said, okay, we’re changing things around this year and if we want to teach generosity, we need to show generosity. So we decided we’re going to take a bunch of money out of the bank and we’re going to buy a whole lot of candy bars and a whole lot of ribbons and we’re going to wrap the money with the candy and Christmas Eve after church. We’re going to spend the evening driving around the rougher areas of Pittsburgh and we’re just going to give out money. Now, we had never done this before, but we were inspired because we had spent some time in Padre Island in Texas the month earlier and we were listening to the podcast of Dr. Kevin Leman and he was talking about this was a tradition that they did with their kids.

And I truly believe in stealing ideas from smart people because he talked about how it bonded their family and how the kids still do it together and often they all do it together still. So he said, okay, this is a family tradition that we want to start. So we went out that night and we’re just driving around and it’s dark and it’s cold. And the kids were all scared to do it and we pushed and we’re like, you’ve got to open the window and offer them the candy and the money. I think the first person we went to was at a bus stop and we’d really needed like a hidden camera because the faces are awesome. You know what? First are ignoring you and then they’re kind of confused or they’re a little bit scared. We think you’re going to do something to them. And they see a little hand reach out of the car and there’s money in a candy bar and they hesitantly walk over and they take it and we say Merry Christmas.

And they cautiously say Merry Christmas. And you see them smile and you see the person next to him at the bus stop. Ask them what just happened. And they must be saying something like, these people just gave us money. And we did that over and over and over. And it became addicting and the next day the kids were talking about the night before about Christmas Eve and the next year Andrew asked as we’re planning Christmas, he says, what are we doing Christmas Eve? How much money are we giving away? I said, did you like doing that? And he goes, I liked it better than Christmas. And I was like, Oh, this is working, this is working. We went out again Christmas Eve and this time we took out more money and we did it a little bit longer, but I don’t think there’s really a limit to it because it’s so easy to give it away.

I’ll be honest with you, at first it’s hard because you’re just giving away cold hard cash. It’s your money and it’s just gone. But when you see the smiles on the faces, when you go to the gas stations and you see the people working at night, you know that they need that money. If they’re working Christmas Eve night at a gas station or a restaurant or a 7-11 and there were so many moments that just hit, we had two more packages two years ago to hand out. We didn’t know where to go. So we went to the 7-11 which is about a mile from our house. And there were two people working there and they were by themselves and they were cooking chicken or whatever it was. And we came in at like 8:30 at night and we sat in the car and we let Nolan and Andrew walk in and hand him the money.

So we get to sit from the outside and we have to wonder what they’re saying. Can we see the looks on their faces? And they’re confused and they’re surprised. And after the kids gave the money, we’re watching the two people because it’s such a study in psychology and they both look at the car and they look at each other and they start crying and they just hugged each other. And we’re like, Holy crap. This is impactful. Way more than we ever imagined. And then we were driving in Dormont outside of Pittsburgh and we pulled up to this woman’s apartment and she’s getting her key ready and it’s dark. And we pull up and we said Merry Christmas. And Nolan handed her the money. And she looked at it and she stared at us. She was stunned and a tear started coming down her cheek and she said, “I can’t remember the last time somebody gave me something for Christmas.”

And we just drove home stunned in silence. And Dylan was like, “What does she mean?” Because they have no idea what it’s like to not get something for Christmas or not. To have somebody give them something for Christmas. And the lessons that come from this for all of us, for the kids to see the life that they’ve been fortunate to have and to see what some other people have to deal with. And that could be them. And then last year put it over the edge because we run a little bit bigger and we’re in the North Shore of Pittsburgh, not far from Heinz Field where the Steelers play and it was dark and it was cold and we liked to go to places where people are working so we can give the workers money cause you know, like we said that they need it. But this woman was in a wheelchair and she came out of 7-11 and Andrew said she’s not wearing any shoes and I’m not sure what the temperature was but it was cold.

So we quickly said, okay her. But she had already passed our car. So we started the car up and we started driving and she’s riding in the middle of the street in a wheelchair. She’s got no jacket on and she’s got no shoes on and it’s dark and we are determined to not let her get away. And we finally pull up next to her and Andrew reached out and said Merry Christmas and gave her a $20 bill wrapped with a candy cane. And she again gave a similar reaction to what the others give. And that’s when we noticed that she had no jacket so she couldn’t have gotten more than 15 feet. We said, let’s give her another one. We pulled up, the kids gave her another $20 and she was so grateful and so thankful and we just sat there watching her still probably heading home in the wheelchair with no shoes and no jacket and no one was like, let’s give her another one.

And we pulled up to her for the third time, it was getting comical, give another $20 and more candy. And she thanked us again and she turned into the apartment complex where she lived. And so now hopefully we have created a tradition that will live on in our family and then hopefully can inspire other people to do so. And what’s fun is Ken Carfagno was a great friend of mine, him and his wife Teresa and their kids, they started doing this last year as well. And what’s really wonderful about it is to see the shift in the kids, to see them not so focused on what they’re getting, but really enjoying giving. And now they all look forward to it. They all ask about it, and for some reason their Christmas wishlist has gotten smaller each year. And I just hope this is something we could do together as a family for years to come, and that they bring it on with their families as a tradition as well. So Merry Christmas Eve, everybody. I hope you have a fantastic time with your families, with your friends, and I’m sure you’ll be busy opening up gifts, but I’ll be back with you tomorrow.

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