Lessons From A White Elephant

12311289_10153266575182467_6910912899747966383_n-2Have you ever participated in a White Elephant Gift Exchange? The basic premise is that everyone comes to a party with an inexpensive gift and is given a number. One by one, when your number is called, you can either choose an unopened present or “steal” one that has already been opened. The person whose gift is stolen then gets another opportunity to open another gift. (There are several variations to this game.)

The Children’s Ministry at church had a Christmas Party for all of the volunteers and their families. After enjoying a yummy spread and treats at the hot chocolate bar, we gathered for the main event. My kids had high numbers, so they would pick gifts towards the end. We all watched with eagle eyes, who unwrapped what and where the “good” gifts went. (Gifts like Starbucks gift cards versus the can of Spam.)

With a last chance to “steal” a gift, my daughter went after the “Sense and Sensibility” DVD. Huge Jane Austen fan. Unfortunately, her brother had purchased her a Jane Austen DVD set for Christmas…and we didn’t realize what gift she had chosen until it was over. She decided to give this DVD to her best friend, a perfect re-gift.

My son traded in his roll of faux hundred dollar bill toilet paper for a much coveted Starbucks gift card. Then the girl next to him stole it. He went for another one and thought he was safe. Until a man snatched it in the final seconds of the trading period. He ended up with a water bottle. Bummer.

The lessons as I observed this supposed-to-be-fun-but-kind-of-intense holiday game:

  1. Hold your treasures lightly. Hiding your awesome gift to dissuade others from seeing them and possibly taking them goes against the rules of the game. And, this is supposed to be more about RELATIONSHIP and not PERSONAL GAIN.
  2. There’s a fine balance between liking something, wanting it and COVETING. If you can’t be happy about someone’s gain and can only lament your lack, then this is a heart issue. Time for a check-up.
  3. Blessings are not a one-time, limited affair. They are all around us, if we have eyes to see.They may come at a later time. Sometimes you have to take your eyes off of what’s immediately in front of you to see them. Often the change of perspective and untangling of emotions (no one said it was easy!!!) can be jumpstarted with a choice to be thankful, an intentional act to be grateful.

The final lesson was key for my son, who did walk away disappointed. But he chose to be thankful for his water bottle. He also celebrated leading our table to victory earlier in the evening by playing a Christmas song on a toy harmonica. We all won Chick-Fil-A gift cards! Because of his choice to keep a great attitude despite the disappointment, we bought him a Starbucks gift card the next day. We don’t always fix our children’s disappointments, but on this occasion felt inspired to give him this little treat. I am thankful for these life lessons…it stinks when people don’t play by the rules and hide things to prevent others from gaining a blessing. But, how we handle these situations and process our disappointments help us to mature and develop into the kind of person that is honorable. And this is the biggest blessing.

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